This Friday, SoCiArts opened an exhibit of all-female artists, “feminine,” which will run through April 17 (by appointment) here in Los Angeles. SoCiArts has been quite successful in producing and promoting arts and film events, particularly those that feature Iranian artists. Of the eight women included in “feminine,” three are Iranians – Negin Karbassian, Shagha Ariannia, and Mona Shomali.

The show’s paintings and photographs hung on brick walls and from pipes, the concrete floor bouncing the noise of conversations and the sound of footsteps around the room. Outside, well-heeled smokers made wisps of toxic air that hovered at nose-level, a kind of olfactory entry badge that attached itself to your hair and clothes and followed you into the room. The woman at the door worried about running out of price lists, and the bartender poured and poured.

It was a beautiful and very sensory scene, almost to the point of being overwhelming. I met two artists, and only talked at any length with one – Mona Shomali, who had come in from New York and walked me through her portfolio (she only had two works hanging on the wall; look for an interview with her here soon). Though I looked for a thread beyond gender to tie some of the art together, I didn’t really find it – it ranged from prints of Bush-era political commentary to portraits of pop-culture figures, abstracted Persian calligraphy to abstract line drawings, clothed photographic self-portraiture to nude photographic self-portraiture. (Incidentally, the nudes were by the only artist whose work was not immediately visible from the entrance of the gallery; they were tucked on a wall next to the DJ, also female and very beautiful, who was working a Macbook from the back of the room.)

Perhaps the show’s thread is sheer variety, but maybe a thread beyond the feminine is not really necessary; a couple of days after the show, I found a Blackbook article from late last year, which cites a study by the National Endowment for the Arts that reports female artists make, on average, $0.75 for every dollar male artists make. According to the same NEA report, more female artists work part-time than male artists do, so perhaps an entire show devoted to female work is intended to narrow these disparities.

For more on the show and its eight artists, see the SoCiArts website.

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