Alchemy Gallery opens an exhibition of works by three dynamic painters

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Alchemy Gallery opens an exhibition of works by three dynamic painters
Heather Benjamin, Star Girl, 2022.

NEW YORK, NY.- Alchemy Gallery is presenting the vibrant, introspective works of three dynamic painters: Heather Benjamin, Christina Allan and Kelly Shami. Titled Fem, this revelatory group exhibition showcases the three artists’ distinct, yet complementary artistic styles: each canvas bearing its own unique, striking subject created with layers of paint and symbolism - bright, bold palettes of color that provide a visceral allure, while offering a glimpse into the various life experiences of each of these incredible artists.

“Each of these artists have developed their own fierce and specific aesthetic that I think really challenges any traditional notion of what "female painters" have ever been,” explains Alchemy Gallery’s co-founder, Jess de la Hunty. “They are each determined, both in their artistic prowess and in the savviness with which they conduct their business; they are utterly dedicated to their practice and the creation of something that is uniquely their own.”

Heather Benjamin’s most recent creations are her largest to date; allowing the vivid superhero-esque feminine figures central to her work to grow in scale, to a size that truly embodies their power. Influenced by iconography including the original Sailor Moon artwork of Naoko Takeuchi and Henry Darger’s Vivian Girls, Benjamin has created her own squad of superhero goddesses to represent the many facets and trials of womanhood. Her work is a meditation on her own personal experiences with her femininity, portraying moments of dysmorphia, anxiety and trauma, while simultaneously exuding strength and confidence. By creating visions of new female archetypes that break the patriarchal grip and gaze, she in turn hopes her work can inspire viewers to harness their own power.

Christina Allan’s fantastical paintings are informed by philosophical ideas, including existentialist writings, and the mythology of ancient civilizations. Inspired by her own transformative experiences during the pandemic, her newest series of work presents dream-like scenes of otherworldly runaways that embark on an adventure through an ambiguous natural realm. She displays a humanistic portrayal of skeletal, reaper-like figures, which are recurring central characters in the artist's work, blended with iconography of human and material culture. Each piece is an energetic blend of bold and hazy spray-painted and airbrushed forms in carefully constructed compositions that seek to challenge traditional societal roles of being in pursuit of an authentic existence. Skeletal figures fleeing to new destinations and freedoms urge the viewer to celebrate the act of leaving, whether from a career, relationship, or lifestyle, through powerful scenes of liberation.

Kelly Shami’s early studies focused on the first women of surrealism including influences like Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington, and Frida Kahlo, who are today some of her main inspirations. Finding parallels in the restraints of growing up as an Arab woman to the restraints of the first women to pioneer Surrealism, Shami’s intriguing paintings routinely combine the natural and unnatural. Flowers altered with piercings turn stationary objects into lifelike forms. The piercings, a form of alteration she experimented with at a young age to feel in control, allow Shami's delicate oil paintings to exist as a series of complex self portraits, while the expertly rendered metallic surfaces of the piercings create a mirrored effect that encourages self-reflection.

Fem opens on Saturday, June 18th with a private preview from 6 - 9pm, and will be available for public viewing during Alchemy Gallery’s open hours: Wednesday through Saturday, noon to 6 pm daily, through July 17th, and by private appointment.


Heather Benjamin:

Heather Benjamin (b. 1989, New York) received her BFA in Printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. She began her career by self-publishing zines and prints of her drawings, and now primarily makes drawings and paintings on paper and canvas. Benjamin makes figurative work that revolves around a mystical feminine protagonist, who simultaneously serves as an avatar for her personal experiences of the traumas of womanhood, as well as a manifestation of power, resilience, and self-embodiment. She has mounted solo exhibitions at Muddguts (NYC), These Days (LA), Commune (Tokyo), the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard (NY), New Image Art (LA), Underdogs (Lisbon), and Bim Bam Gallery (Paris). Selected group exhibitions include Jeffrey Deitch (LA), Andrew Edlin (NY), Invisible Exports (NY), Mana Contemporary (NJ), Over The Influence (Hong Kong) and Hashimoto Contemporary (SF). She has curated group shows at Andrew Edlin (NY), New Image Art (LA), and 182 Ave C (NY). She lives and works in New York City.

Christina Allan:

Christina Allan (b. 1995, Toronto) is fueled by the individual and collective anxieties that surround the human condition and psyche, one's self, and one's relation to the world. Known for her highly expressive and vibrant paintings, Allan’s work expresses profound aspects of the human experience, including the classic existential struggle. From dramatic mythical scenes to introspective psychological portraits, her work populates a world of fantastical creatures within dream-like natural landscapes. Similar to how ancient mythological deities served as answers to the mysteries of a meaningless world and universe, Allan’s paintings present an in-between space and state – an escape from an absurd quotidian existence. She believes her subconscious guides her making and views her work as a vital outlet for confronting deep-rooted ideas surrounding her existence. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from Parsons the New School for Design in 2017 and was awarded the institution’s Dean’s BFA Scholarship. Her paintings can be found in private collections throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. She lives and works in Toronto, Canada.

Kelly Shami:

Kelly Shami (b. 1991, New Jersey) is a first-generation American artist of Syrian and Lebanese descent, living and working in New York City. She completed her B.F.A. from The School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2013, where she learned about the ideals of Surrealism, especially with women being seen as an object or "muse" and never the creator herself, which she found paralleled the restraints of growing up as an Arab woman. After working various creative jobs around New York, she was able to expand her painting practice in 2018 when she rented a studio in Queens. Her subjects are a language made from an obsession with differences - many flowers symbolize love and they can also symbolize death, which in contradiction and relation to death, survival is a constant in the minds of Arab Americans. Flowers also have remained a constant influence throughout her life in various forms - from the florals and fragrances attached to memories from Beirut and Aleppo, to growing up in the “Garden State” of New Jersey, to her grandfather, who was a farmer in Syria, and planted many florals, fruits, and vegetables when he was forced to live in NJ. When she moved to New York 12 years ago, she found herself suddenly surrounded by everything unnatural all the time, and thus sought to represent these differences of her past and present in her art: both the natural and unnatural. Her home is far away memories from Lebanon and Syria, to now the gritty man-made New York City.

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