Women in Art: Mira Dancy and her all-female universe

If you’re not familiar with Women in Art, it’s a series here on The Art Stories that highlights the valuable contribution of women in art. Gender biases have been an ongoing obstacle for women trying to make it in the art world for centuries. Their works were not attributed to them; more often than not, they remained anonymous, especially those produced during the Renaissance. Women were not accepted in Art Schools which were are until now a male-dominated space. The first woman to ever get accepted in the  Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, two groups of artists in France, was Suzanne Valadon in 1894. The female presence has been steadily growing from the 19th century onwards but statistics show that we have a long way to go. To this day, out of 10,000 artists featured in permanent exhibitions in the US museums, 87% are male and 85% are white. The 8th of March is the International Women’s Day. In honor of this day, The Art Stories will be featuring another female painter, this time a contemporary one.

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Mira Dancy is an artist to watch.  She was born in the UK and is currently living and working in Brooklyn, NY. She studied in Bard College, where she fell in love with painting in an introductory art class. Painting seemed to come to her naturally, as if it was something that she was supposed to do, so she did it. Since then, she has been dedicated to art. In 2011 she moved to New York and worked there while focusing all her spare time painting. After toying with the idea of attending graduate school for a few years, she took the plunge and started her graduate studies at Columbia University in 2006. Soon enough her undeniable confidence drew in her fellow female students and her studio became a hub of students that questioned the status-quo. Dancy and her group of friends graduated in 2009. Her exhibitions consist of paintings, neon installations, murals, videos or even poems that she writes during the creative process.

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Success didn’t come instantly for Mira. Her first exhibition took place in 2010 at Night Gallery in Los Angeles, a gallery founded by one of her friends. None of her paintings were sold but that didn’t seem to phase her at all. She continued working with the same devotion. It wasn’t until 2015 and her show “Is She Is She Psychic” that things took off for her. This exhibition was all about a strong woman that often reminds us of a mystical creature. Mira’s powerful nudes in “Is She Is She Psychic” were inspired by her first daughter’s birth whom she named Isis after the ancient Egyptian goddess. Her canvases, big and expansive, filled with colours and female silhouettes, don’t feature male bodies. As the artist says herself, she wants her paintings to be about the female experience as a whole. She paints women for women and not for the male gaze. Her women aren’t only pretty, happy or waiting for a lover, as male painters choose to portray them over and over again for centuries. They experience the difficulties and internal conflicts that a patriarchal society imposes on them, which unravel on Mira’s canvases. Females are constantly torn between two identities: the women they themselves want to be and the women that the patriarchy tells them they should be. Dancy conveys this message by using pink, red, blue and black as her primary colors. The figures dominate the canvas and flaunt their features confidently rather than posing passively.

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The same themes are dominating her next exhibitions up until now. After looking at her paintings for a second or third time, her influences are crystal clear. She is often inspired by Picasso and Matisse’s  nudes but she incorporates elements of their work in a more expressionistic style. In “Yes” Dancy went for a darker theme, choosing blacks and greys. She created a mural of another female figure all in black. Her later work in her exhibitions “Call Now” and “High Hell” is so clearly influenced by goddesses and other types of mystical creatures that we feel as though they are right in front of us. In “Blue Isis”, one of the most impressive paintings created in 2017, Isis has wings. Another theme that appears recurrently in Dancy’s paintings is the advertisement and the role that it plays in forming ideals about women’s body image and overall appearance. In her paintings entitled “Herfume Perfume” Mira Dancy makes a commentary on perfume ads that always emphasize womens’ sex-appeal. This is completely opposite to “Herfume”, the perfume that the paintings advertise. The woman that wears it is self-possessed. The scent of this female might as well be her own natural odour, something that normally remains hidden as much as possible. Clearly, she does not need to change. Mira Dancy’s work is a much needed breath of fresh air.

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