Ritual Union / The Huntress
“It doesn’t much matter what line of argument you take as a woman. If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it – it’s the fact that you are saying it.” – Mary Beard, The New Yorker
Kate Pincus-Whitney’s Ritual Union/The Huntress celebrates the icon of the huntress, who embodies an independent female spirit, fights for autonomy, and practices her right to choose. Through this latest body of work, Pincus-Whitney situates herself in a long lineage of women who embody the archetype, from ancient figures such as Artemis and Persephone, to contemporary ones like Alice Waters and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Her paintings take inspiration from the Surrealist world of foliage and the distinctive stylization of the so-called theatre of the dinner table. Including art historical, mythological, socio-political, and personal references, Pincus-Whitney transforms the paintings into shrines that celebrate women and awaken mythological allegories from the dead. She intuitively interrogates and subverts history through a feminist lens, encouraging the viewer to slow down the pace, take a seat at the table, and share an intimate meal with legions of women who both inspire and disrupt.
The catalyst for Ritual Union/The Huntress came in 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned half a century of constitutional rights to abortion. Devastated and enraged, Pincus-Whitney began to research the connection between the physical body, meat, and power. Inspired by British artist Cecily Brown’s exploration of Frans Snyders’s hunting paintings, Pincus-Whitney turned to ancient mythology. The artist flips myths such as the Abduction of Persephone, the Rape of Europa, and Leda and the Swan on their heads, bringing power back to the vulnerable female protagonists. The flesh becomes both subject and object and the body is simultaneously present and absent. Adopting and adapting the formal language of Dutch still-life, naturaleza muerta, and Fauvism, Pincus-Whitney uses allegory and myth to explore women’s relationship to natural cycles and to show how the female body has for centuries remained a site for power plays between men. Ritual Union/The Huntress pushes back against Western art history and literature’s obsession with subjugating and silencing women; instead, it sets the stage for renewal, resistance, commiseration, communion, and love.
Pincus-Whitney’s artistic process is actively connected to the Jungian-based sand tray play therapy developed in the mid-1900s by Swiss psychoanalyst Dora Kalff. The artist inherited this practice from her mother, who worked as a Jungian analyst. Using trays filled with sand, participants choose from a variety of miniature, archetypically loaded objects, and place them onto trays to create unique scenes that allow access to the unconscious mind, express and process emotions, and create a sacred space for healing. In Ritual Union/The Huntress, Pincus-Whitney builds her paintings in a similar manner. Book covers, film characters, mythological figures, and female subjects in art history are intentionally placed within a mass of culinary objects and flora. Brightly colored Dionysian scenes serve as a trojan horse, drawing viewers into altars that slowly reveal oft-forgotten histories of huntresses – both past and present. The vibrant objects appear to float in front of a black background as if on a stage or in a liminal space between two worlds. The paintings, originally rooted in anger, evolve into optimistic new worlds built by the artist where history is subverted to celebrate the divine feminine.
Text by Tina Barouti