Cosmologies, Movements, and Proclamations
for Peace

January  25 – March 23, 2024

Left: Miriam Parker, detail from Surface, 2022, digital video, 16 min. 55 sec. Right: Naomi Ben- Shahar, Cosmology Collage (with Statement of Dissent), 2022-23, Silver gelatin print, watercolor on paper, cotton, wool, 22 1/4 x 24 3/4 inches

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 25, 2024, 4:30–7:30pm

The Yeh Art Gallery at St. John's University is pleased to present the exhibition Cosmologies, Movements, and Proclamations for Peace, a dialogue between the work of two artists, Miriam Parker and Naomi Ben-Shahar, who work across the mediums of photography, painting, collage, weaving, dance, installation and video. With an attention to materiality, visual storytelling and archival imagery, this exhibition presents a conversation about forging new pathways of consciousness for the planet that forefront radical love, sustainability and nonviolence in order to confront the injustices which are polarizing the world. Embracing collaboration and mutual aid as necessary elements to achieve a peaceful coexistence, the works in the exhibition look at how traditions and rituals of dance and craft can create new modes of interconnectedness across people and disciplines. If we are all inextricably linked to one another and to the natural world, and if the actions or struggle of any one individual are linked to the actions of all, then how can an investigation of movement-based art forms build a deeper connection to each other and to nature? Can a proliferation of image-making, performance and publishing shift the narratives of hegemonic masculinity that define oppressive power structures? Can an exhibition present an alternative that is framed around universal, unifying principles of our shared humanity?

In Miriam Parker’s two videos—Surface and Beneath the Surface—the artist engages with tactile materials such as viscous paint, plastic tubing, translucent film, sand and fabric; all activated by the improvised movement of her body in space. The opacity of the body oscillates, dancing in and out of the frame of the video. The scale of the imagery fluctuates from the molecular to the cosmic; physical matter become unified as the line between the presence and non-presence of the body is obscured. Each video forms its own unique ecosystem, relying on the interdependence of all components to work together to activate the whole—a microcosm of the universe unfolding within a two dimensional moving image. Collaboration with others is a guiding force throughout Parker’s work, and Beneath the Surface features the music and movement of Constellation Chor—composed and directed by Marisa Michelson—a sound component that forefronts how the body and voice can together explore the limits of perceptibility. In the video Chasing Red, Parker collapses physical and virtual spaces as layered movements in her backyard and domestic space merge with fragments from the studio and digital artifacts. Dance is the catalyst here, creating new avenues of thought, opening up unexplored modes of consciousness.

Naomi Ben-Shahar’s recent series of works entitled “Cosmology Collages” each contain three components: a handmade weaving, a photograph and a painting. The artist’s black and white photographs of the Namib desert in Africa depict an expansive landscape, considered to be one of the oldest deserts in the world. The paintings are based on the archive of Barbara Morgan’s photographic collaborations with choreographer Martha Graham. The weavings—an integral part of Ben-Shahar’s studio practice—are also images that capture light and space through time. They tell a story of the artist working with natural fibers to create a connective tissue that speaks to the interrelationships between craft, image-making, painting and dance.

Ben-Shahar’s work is deeply rooted in Ecofeminist ideas, bringing together shared concerns across generations of feminist and environmentalist activism. Forming this constellation of intersecting materials and timescales within one frame, this work poses an alternative perspective that rejects patriarchal systems of knowledge-building in favor of a symbiotic, non- linear approach to looking at history and traditions of art making. Infinite cycles and progressions unfold within these collages in all directions: the movement of the dancer’s body is informed by the curvilinear forms in the photographs of the vast desert; the act of weaving informs the choreography of the dancer; the production and composition of the photograph is informed by the history of weaving; the pose of the dancer informs the gesture of the paintbrush and the hand of the weaver.

Miriam Parker is an interdisciplinary artist who uses movement, paint, media and sculpture/ installation within a performance-based practice. Her work has been influenced by her experience as a dancer, her study of Buddhism and phenomenology, and her connection to the free jazz tradition. Parker is a Monira Foundation artist-in-residence at Mana Contemporary. In 2021 she received the Toulmin Fellowship through CBA and National Sawdust in collaboration with Marisa Michelson. She has performed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; PS1 MoMA, New York; The Fridman Gallery, New York; a residency at École Normale Supérieure, Paris; at the Every Women Biennial, New York; Survey Dover Plains, NY; at Vision Festival through consecutive years; the Satellite Art Fair, in Miami, FL; Clement Soto Velez Cultural and Education Center, New York; Whitebox ArtCenter, New York; a month residency at Governors Island in the House of Poetics curated by Cooper Union; among others.

Naomi Ben-Shahar is a multi-disciplinary artist and curator living and working in New York. In 2023, she had a solo exhibition at Baxter St: Camera Club of New York and was also awarded a research fellowship at UCLA to further develop her work with Barbara Morgan’s archive into an artist book. Ben-Shahar has exhibited at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in NY; the International Video Festival in Casablanca; Feature, Inc., White Columns, Invisible-Exports, and Gorney, Bravin, Lee galleries in NY; FA Projects in London; Edith Russ Site for Media Arts in Germany; Art and Process in Paris; Torch Gallery in Amsterdam; Camera Works in San Francisco; BY Art Projects in Tel Aviv, Guild Hall in East Hampton, among others. For three decades, alongside her own art practice, she made a living as a photo researcher/editor; she was the image editor of Cabinet magazine and the New Yorker; and curated exhibitions for the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center.

Cosmologies, Movements, and Proclamations for Peace
is organized by Max Warsh, Director of the Yeh Art Gallery, St. John’s University in collaboration with the artists.