Yishay Garbasz is a Berlin-based interdisciplinary artist whose work, for over two decades, has explored the “cultural specific inheritance of traumatic memories.” We visited her most recent exhibition, Women's Art Doesn't End at The Outer Labia, at Anita Rogers Gallery in NYC upon its opening in May. The exhibition explores geographical sites left in the wake of war, terror, and significant moments in her life during some of the darkest parts of history. Images of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture, the site of the second most catastrophic nuclear disaster in history (second only to Chernobyl), and moments from her mother’s lived experience during the holocaust both appear across the gallery walls.
Meeting Garbasz for the first time leaves you with a certainty that her work is derived from somewhere profound and brave. In 2010, her exhibition Becoming appeared at The Busan Biennale in Busan, South Korea. Described as a straightforward look at gender affirmation and the gaze on transgender identity in our society; from language to body image and making early fashion choices.
Women's Art Doesn't End at The Outer Labia portrays the real intimacy of the human body and the physical space it takes up. The combination is her work. A lesson in symbiosis. Eat Me Damien, a piece on display at the very front of the gallery, displays Garbasz’s testicles, removed during a gender affirmation surgery and preserved in formaldehyde. An opposite wall holds a larger than life barbed-vagina, which Garbasz spent long hours installing in the gallery just days prior to the opening.
The exhibit creates heavy moments for the viewer, challenging you to place yourself in these dark moments. Breathing them in as you dare to see further into what they represent. Provoking strong emotional reactions whether they’re intended by the artist or not. Her work challenges us to see humanity for what it is. Even when we have our own ideas of what people, places, and events represent throughout time. Women's Art Doesn't End at The Outer Labia feels deeply personal. Emitting the pain and raw energy that can be marginally felt within her photography and installations.
Women's Art Doesn't End at The Outer Labia is on display at Anita Rogers Gallery at 494 Greenwich Street until June 18, 2022.