Carlye Packer is pleased to present Hagiographies Of Whoredom, the first solo exhibition of Los Angeles-based artist Athena Lemanska, on view September 23rd through October 28th.
Hard-faceted and monolithic, a single figure moves between the nine paintings that make up Lemanska’s Hagiographies Of Whoredom. The exhibition traces a penitential heroine loosely inspired by the biblical character Mary of Egypt and diaristic scenes from Lemanska’s own life. Mary Aegyptiaca wielded her sexuality as power, and yet, as repentance, was cast into the wilds to wander the desert, clothed in nothing but long, flowing hair which covered every inch of her naked body. Art historical images of the saint are inherently sexualized, her nipples ever exposed and hardened by a seeming burst of blowing wind.
Lemanska subverts the hagiographies of female saints, obsessed as they are with the extremes of chastity and whoredom, by presenting her own body in captured moments from life—a commodity more precious than flesh. Wandering through the dry California brush, her figures appear against dry, shadowy landscapes as symbols of fertility and sexual power, their sainthood springing from a chastity reframed as focus, devotion, and isolation.
In Lemanska’s work we find this ancient woman emerging into our contemporary world, rendered with frenzied brushstrokes that seem to recall the glitches at the edge of a video game and awash in voltaic light; she appears restful, contemplative, anything but contrite. The hypersexualized thrust of Lemanska’s work is a simultaneous celebration of pleasure and reclamation of the artists own sexualized body. Her sanctified self-portraits leave nothing to the imagination, as if to proclaim: “Now, you may hear me speak.”
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