‘New Worlds: Georgia Women to Watch’ exhibit features diverse …

Through a highly competitive process, works of five emerging Georgia women artists have been chosen for the exhibition “New Worlds: Georgia Women to Watch,” on view at Atlanta Contemporary Jan. 27 – June 4.

From varied and diverse backgrounds, these artists find common ground in contemplating an uncertain future during a time of cultural, political and environmental change. The exhibition, organized by the Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, explores how our societal conditions have impacted each artist’s visions for the future, or inspired them to create alternative realities.

“New Worlds” co-curators Melissa Messina and Sierra King joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom to talk more about the works on display.

Interview highlights:

Making space for world-building women in the arts:

“Sierra and I, in thinking about how to conceive of an exhibition where each artist was creating their own world, we decided to select five artists who had an installation-based practice,” said Messina. “While each of them are very diverse in those practices – what they’re saying, what their imagery is representing, what materials they’re using – we felt like that would make a really interesting show, that these artists are not just pushing the boundaries of the thematic art of the show, but that they’re pushing the boundaries of their medium. So there are artists who are dealing with light. There are artists who are dealing with sound. There are artists who are pushing the boundaries of what landscape painting can be, what figure painting can be, what sculpture looks like.”

Messina added, “The theme comes from the charge of the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., and historically, it has kind of been material-based. There was a show several years ago of women who were working in paper, for example. So this is the first iteration where the museum in D.C. decided to tackle a more complex theme, and so it really challenged us as curators… For us to think about how women are interpreting the future, of course, is a much more ambitious question to answer, and of course, there were a multitude of answers.”

An overview of diverse artists across types of media:

“Anila Quayyum Agha…she works in a light-based installation medium. And so her work is really dealing with, not only light, but the structure that is encapsulating the light…,” said King. “Namwon Choi, her work is dealing with distance, travel and navigation, mostly in the medium of paint. And she uses that across different structural forms of presentation. So while some of the visual part of it is based in 2D, she’s also moved that into different spherical figures, different 3D models of what that could be, and so it gives that dimension not only to the world that she’s repainting, but allows you to navigate it walking around, or being able to interpret it in different ways.

“Victoria Dugger, she’s working in mixed media and also textiles, and so her work is tackling the interiority of what it means to be a Black woman. Some of… the figure that she’s working with doesn’t come across as a human figure, but more so one that is of the mind, so in her interiority, she’s also thinking about the domesticity of women and different milestones that women may have come across in their lives,” King explained. “Shanequa Gay, she’s always been a wonder, to look at her work as far as the fantastical aspect of it but also thinking about how Black women have been these griots and devouts of their time… Marianna Dixon Williamson, her work is also embedded in navigation, not only in her own personal life, but the personal lives of LGBTQIA people, and how… revisiting steps, or revising journals or letters can encapsulate not only who you are, but who you want to become.”

Why women bring wholly unique perspectives on future-oriented thinking:

“The ones that bring life into the world are really decision-makers, or should be the decision-makers on how the world around them is cultivated. And so when you center the woman, she’s already had in mind a future that she wants to bring life into that world, and so I think not only as artists, but as women who are navigating that question… we’re constantly thinking about a future that’s affected by our now, which has many different intersections as far as climate, as far as what we do with our bodies, as far as health and mindset.”

Messina added, “We were struck by, as Sierra alluded to, this interior and exterior landscape, both of the physical environment and the personal body, and I think those are themes that women have dealt with in art throughout time. And to see these five women looking at the future, they are also taking into account the wrongs and ills of the past.”

“New Worlds: Georgia Women to Watch” is on view at Atlanta Contemporary Jan.28 – June 4. More information is available at


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