“Man does not merely seek in the sexual act subjective and ephemeral pleasure. He wants to conquer, take, and possess.”
— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949)
Sex and violence share a complex and intertwined history. As an institution devoted to the full history, evolution, and cultural significance of human sexuality, the Museum of Sex aims to break the silence surrounding these issues. Reclaiming and Making: Art, Desire, Violence presents fourteen international artists who have faced and challenged sexually motivated violence through artworks that date from the 1970s, to the present day and a screening of the Sex Workers Project documentary Sex(ual) Healing (2021). These artworks ask us to bear witness both to the reality and history of sexual trauma, and to the resiliency, agency, and healing power that survivors of such trauma manifest. They are showcased in the hopes of developing a safer, healthier, and more liberated sexual culture.
Zoya Cherkassky was born in Kiev, Ukraine in 1976. Representing varying Soviet realities, Cherkassky’s work narrates specific stories and scenes in addition to such simple everyday situations as daily commutes and chores. Through historical research and memory, she gathers together recognizable objects and patterns to reconstruct a bygone era that defines millions of identities. Work on view: Untitled, 202. Mixed media on paper, 5 x 7.5 in. Museum of Sex Collection.
Judy Chicago is an artist, author, feminist and educator whose career spans six decades. Chicago studied at the University of California, Los Angeles, graduating with a Master’s Degree in painting and sculpture in 1964. In 1970 she launched the first feminist art programme at the California State University, Fresno. Chicago works across media, often using traditional crafts such as needlework and china-painting. The unifying goal of her work is to make a place for female-centred imagery and to overcome the erasure of women’s achievements in art and society. Work on view: Love Story, 1971. Offset photo-lithograph on paper, edition of 250, 16 ¼ x 12 ½ in. Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco
Hannah Claus is a Kanienkehá:ka and English visual artist who explores Onkwehonwe epistemologies as living transversal relationships in her installation and video practice. A 2019 Eiteljorg fellow and 2020 Prix Giverny recipient, her installations have been included in exhibitions across Canada, most recently at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and the Musée d’art contemporain (Montreal) as well as at the Museum of Art and Design (NYC), Eiteljorg Museum (Indianapolis), NoNAM Museum (Zurich) and Bundeskunsthall (Bonn). She lives and works in Tiohtià:ke [Montreal] since 2001. Work on view: For those who didn’t make it home / pour celles qui ne sont jamais revenues, 2015. Video projection, Russian birch plywood, aluminum mesh, 8 ½ x 60 in. Collection of the City of Montreal.
Sue Coe is an English artist and illustrator working primarily in drawing, printmaking, and in the form of illustrated books and comics. Her work is in the tradition of social protest art and is highly political. Coe’s work often includes animal rights commentary, though she also creates work that centralizes the rights of marginalized peoples and criticizes capitalism. Her commentary on political events and social injustice are published in newspapers, magazines and books. Her work has been shown internationally in both solo and group exhibitions and has been collected by various international museums. She lives in Upstate New York. Work on view: It’s Not Safe, 1983. Mixed media and collage on paper with canvas backing in place for support 83 ½ x 120 in. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie St. Etienne, New York.
Silvia Giambrone explores contemporary body politics with a particular focus on both physical and psychological violence against women. Employing an almost ethnographic approach, Giambrone casts a critical gaze on the traditional domestic environment and excavates the inherent yet often hidden power dynamics in relationships. Work on view: TRAUM, 2019. Ceramic sculpture (7 ⅘ x 11 ⅘ x 3 in.) and documented performance, Courtesy of the artist, Richard Saltoun Gallery, and Studio Stefania Miscetti.
Leslie Labowitz-Starus is an Los Angeles artist and Entrepreneur best known for her collaboration with Suzanne Lacy on large scale public media performances on the theme of violence against women. They formed Ariadne: A Social Art Network to include the participation of women in the media, politics and the art community in their elaborate events. These works have been exhibited internationally and published in important books such as “The Power of Feminist Art,” 1994 and Wack! Art and Feminist Revolution, 2007. The documentation of the Ariadne works from 1977-1982 is now housed in a contemporary installation “The Performing Archive” and shown in Berlin, Spain and San Francisco. Labowitz-Starus, received her MFA from Otis Art Institute and was a Fullbright Scholar in 1972. She worked with Joseph Beuys at the Kunstakadamie in Dusseldorf, Germany where she lived until 1977 when she returned to Los Angeles. Currently, Labowitz-Starus is an Artist/Entrepreneur/President of “Foodology,” an organic food business that evolved out of her performance series “Sproutime,” 1980-2021 and is ongoing. Works on view: Myths About Rape, All Men Are Potential Rapists, The Rape, and Fight Back, 1977. All 16 x 24 vinyl prints on board. Performances at LA City Hall Mall as part of Three Weeks in May (1977) by Suzanne Lacy. Photographs by Lacy. Courtesy of the artist.
Chang-Jin Lee is a Korean-born visual artist and lives in New York City. Her multicultural background and experiences are reflected in her investigations of diverse cultural and social issues. Her artworks deal with subjects that include “Comfort Women,” 9/11, gender, identity, individualism, sweatshops and globalization, North Korea and nationalism, and spirituality. Work on view: Comfort Women Wanted, 2016 – ongoing, Six 48 x 112 in. fabric banners and 66 min. B&W digital video with sound. Courtesy of the artist.
Hannah McBroom graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with an emphasis in Painting. She received a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas in 2019. Her work explores themes of transgender identity, materiality, and the body. Work on view: What you came for, 2019. Oil on Canvas, 40 x 48 in. Courtesy of the artist.
Owanto is a multi-cultural Gabonese artist born in Paris, France. She was raised in Libreville, Gabon, and later moved to Europe to study Philosophy, Literature and Languages. Owanto’s multidisciplinary practice emerges from a 30-year career where she explores a variety of media, including photography, sculpture, painting, video, sound, installation and performative works. Her interest in memory leads her to construct new utopian worlds while reflecting on the concepts of identity, transformation and evolution. Work on view: Flowers V, 2021. Cold porcelain flower on aluminum UV print. 25 ⅘ x 49 ⅕ x 6 in. © 2021 Owanto.
Joyce J. Scott is an African-American artist from Baltimore, celebrated worldwide for her powerful depictions of racially and politically charged subjects that are crafted using glass and beads. Working within a variety of media, Scott’s practice is influenced by myriad cultures including Native American and African. “I believe in messing with stereotypes. It’s important for me to use art in a manner that incites people to look and then carry something home—even if it’s subliminal,” she has said of her work. Works on view: Day After Rape: Gathering Water and Day After Rape: Gathering Wood, 2009. Glass beads, thread, glass jar and wooden pipes 8 x 8 x 4 in. and 7 ¼ x 13 x 3 in. Courtesy Goya Contemporary Gallery and Amy Eva Raehse & David Tomasko, Baltimore.
Davina Semo has a BA in Visual Arts and Creative Writing from Brown University and an MFA from University of California, San Diego. In 2021, the artist’s work was exhibited at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 1 in the solo installation Reverberation commissioned by Public Art Fund. Semo recently enjoyed the solo show Core Reflections at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, Napa, wherein the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Forrest Gander composed poetry and critical reflections to accompany the artist’s new sculpture. Her work shows nationally and internationally. Semo has exhibited in prominent group exhibitions at: San Francisco Arts Commission; Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco; SOMArts, San Francisco; and Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles. Her work is currently on view at Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s “New Time: Art and Feminisms in the 21st Century,” a major survey exploring recent feminist practices in contemporary art. Semo lives and works in San Francisco. She is represented by Jessica Silverman, San Francisco. Work on view: She Knew So Much; She Had Been Like That Since She Was A Girl, Curious About Everything, 2013-2018. Polished Cast Bronze, 21 x ½ x 1 ⅛ in. Edition 4 of 5. Courtesy of the artist and Jessica Silverman, San Francisco.
Aida Silvestri is an interdisciplinary artist, activist and educator of Eritrean descent who creates mixed-media artworks that challenge the status quo of stigma, prejudice and social injustice in relation to issues of race, class, identity and health, often combining text, image and experimental techniques to manipulate the photographic surface. Silvestri’s solo exhibitions include Autograph and Roman Road Gallery, both in London, and she has exhibited in international group shows such as African Cosmologies: Photography, Time and the Other (FotoFest, Houston, 2020), and at The Photographers’ Gallery, London; Saatchi Gallery, London; TEAT Champ Fleuri, Sainte-Clotilde; Musée National d’Histoire- aux-Poissons, Ville-Haute; The Hong-Gah Museum, Taipei; Benaki Museum, Athens; Cours de L’Archevéché, Arles; and Centquarter, Paris. In 2021 she was artist-in-residence at Light Work, Syracuse. Her works are held in the collections of the Museum of Fine Art, Houston (USA), Los Angeles Country Museum (USA) and Autograph, London (UK). Works on view: Distance: Type I B (2015-16); Type II D – Excision (2015-16); Type II F – Excision (2015-16); Razor blades and paint on giclée print (unique); Giclée print and vintage leather, stitching (unique). 17.3 x 23.6 in.; 23 x 33 in. © Aida Silvestri. Courtesy of Autograph, London.
Aga Tamiola is a multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin. Her geographical and linguistic misplacement led her to focus on the aspects of loss, identity and belonging in the context of social relations and new technologies. Her paintings, prints and sculptures look beyond the surface of established cultural constellations to cast a light on the unseen and find new ways of interpreting the everyday. The environments and installations Aga creates poke at, and sometimes break, the uncomfortable silences attached to the abuse of power that can take place within family or society. She is also interested in the healing power of art, in using tools and materials to mend, rebuild and restructure identities in the wake of loss and displacement. Works on view: Obsolete Oath, 2014, Cast Iron, 4 ⅓ x 1 ⅖ in. x ⁷/₁₀ in. and Traditions Run Deeper Than Law, 2015. Six Archival Inkjet Prints. 5 ⁹/₁₀ x 10 ⅗ in. Courtesy of the artist.
Ada Trillo is a Philadelphia-based photographer, who was born and raised in the bi-national border region of Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. In her work, she focuses on borders of inclusion and exclusion as they are experienced through people in sex trafficking; climate and violence-related international migration; and long-standing barriers of race and class. Works on view: Lupita, Sylvia and Sandra from the How Did I Get Here? Series, 2015. 3 archival pigment jet print photographs. 20 x 28 in. overall; 22 x 14 in. overall; 20 x 28 in. overall. Courtesy of the artist.
Winston Forgenie Jr.
Amy Eva Raehse & David Tomasko, Baltimore
Autograph ABP, London
Collection of the City of Montreal, CA
Galerie St. Etienne, New York
Goya Contemporary, Baltimore
Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco
Richard Saltoun Gallery, London
Studio Stefania Miscetti, Rome
The Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center is a national organization that defends the human rights of sex workers by destigmatizing and decriminalizing people in the sex trades through free legal services, education, research, and policy advocacy. They aim to create a sexually liberated world where all workers have the autonomy and power to fully enjoy their human rights. Their intersecting organizational values are human rights, harm reduction, being trauma informed and anti-oppression. Most of the staff are current or former sex workers as well as queer, non-binary and/or trans people. Learn more here. On view in the exhibition is Sex(ual) Healing (2021), the first episode of a reality-focused and nuanced docuseries which will help millions of individuals better understand the complexity and diversity of sex work, recognize the harmful impact of existing laws, and change the way we talk about criminality, sex, and consent. They aim to educate, raise awareness, and build an audience who can mobilize to defend the rights of sex workers across the country.
Lora DiCarlo started in 2017. Their premier device was inspired by the experience and persistence of founder and CEO, Lora Haddock DiCarlo, and developed in partnership with Oregon State University’s Robotics & Engineering Lab. Things really got hot when they won a coveted robotics innovation award from the Consumer Technology Association. When the award was rescinded (what?!), it kickstarted a critical public conversation about gender equity in tech and the right to pleasure for all people. Actress, model, and activist Cara Delevingne joined Lora DiCarlo as a Co-Owner and Creative Advisor. Lora, Cara, and the Lora DiCarlo team will work together to continue pushing the boundaries. With an in-house engineering team and quick-turn development capabilities, they’re swiftly creating and improving upon their innovative products to fill needs in the market and expand the inclusivity of more anatomies. Their education and activism are breaking the barriers of long-standing, systemic stigmatization. Together, Lora DiCarlo and Cara are committed to lessening the orgasm gap and driving towards a world where all humans can embrace their sexuality with positivity and confidence. Their products are engineered to be inclusive, user-friendly, and most importantly, mind-blowing. They combine innovative technology with beautiful design to delight you in the moment and inspire you to keep exploring your sexual well-being. The products are on sale in the Museum of Sex store and you can learn more here.