Celebrating Female Fertility
Lisa Paul Streitfeld
Amidst a constant media barrage regarding the reproductive capacity of celebrities, Yuliya Lanina comes along with her joyous, resplendent "Transfigurations of Queen Butterfly" to reveal why we do indeed care about celebrating female fertility.
Lanina was born in Russia where she experienced the gradual liberation of her nation before arriving in America in 1990. With work completed this year, she delivers a grassroots movement of authentic female liberation to Williamsburg. Indeed, the gallery kpb (kleinblueproductions.com) has been transformed into a contemporary Garden of Eden where the female breaks out of patriarchal stereotypes to celebrate the liberation of her soul. The artist interweaves sculpture, painting, assemblage and collage with installation to narrate a contemporary mythology of spiritual rebirth reflecting her own swift passage from obscurity to the limelight.
She takes the viewer/participant through the four stages of spiritual transformation through assemblage/installation created from sculpture cast of her own body. The exhibition works so well because Lanina does have a new form of body, curvy but androgynous with a robust belly portending birth.
The narrative begins with Emergence, where layers of cultural graffiti are peeled away to reveal the vulnerability of the nude body bordered by a collage of female media stereotypes. It passes through the repose of Contemplation where the body in birthing position lies in a soft bed of flowers. Lanina dramatically assumes the throne with the celebratory pose of Liberation, crowned with golden halo. Following this spiritual exaltation, there is the inevitable return to the body, represented by the raging figure of Rebirth, expelled from the dark womb plastered with S&M imagery. Finally, there is the central Flower, where the body–integrated now between masculine and feminine–lies inside a flowered womb while six butterfly collages above express various facets of womanhood. Here is a reminder that true freedom comes with the full liberation of expression.
Lanina, a practicing yogi, realizes the potential that contemporary women artists have to ride into the zeitgeist through a refreshing combination of talent, inner contemplation and zest for surpassing ego identity. There is a nearly perfect balance here between conscious/unconscious, light/dark and joy/rage. Giving birth to oneself is surely painful, but the engaging charm of "Transfigurations of Queen Butterfly" leaves us with the feeling that the journey is essential–not only for the artist, but for the society at large.