Nao Bustamante

In Residence: May 24 – Nov 15, 2021

Exhibition: Jul 15 – Sep 5, 2021

Nao Bustamante’s BLOOM exhibition is an examination of women’s gynecological practice and history. It is also a world of pleasurable surprises. Rooted in both research and object-making, the idea for BLOOM, the exhibition, was inspired by the artist’s idea for a new speculum device which came into the artists mind, fully formed, shortly after a pelvic exam in 2011. The exhibition—with its look at the autonomy of women and their bodies— has particular resonance in light of Texas’s recent legislative actions. When you enter the gallery through tailored rich velvet, evocative of a vagina, you will be enveloped into a world of flesh tones with many artworks to explore. What first comes into view, though located furthest away from the entrance, is an antique gynecological examination table levitating in mid-air, balanced, and waiting for activation. The table pays tribute to Anarcha, Lucy, and Betsey, the enslaved women who physician James Marion Sims used for early gynecological experiments in the mid 1800’s. It’s from these experiments that we have the duck-bill speculum commonly used today, and which continues to cause so many women discomfort. The medical table was also utilized during an opening night performance by the artist. Remnants of the opening night’s machete champagne tower, with lipstick stains from participants, sits in a corner of the gallery. Further into the gallery, you’ll encounter a series of five framed works which introduce the BLOOM speculum device. Bustamante’s BLOOM speculum is based on an opening flower, with several flexible, cured petals in a thin condom-like sheath. The framed works further emphasize the connection to nature with an overlay of botanical flowers by local artist and Artpace intern, Piper Bangs, painted over Bustamante’s medical drawings of the speculum. Central to the residency work was community collaboration, and on a long table “vaginary imaginary” tools are displayed. These ceramic works were created by Artpace attendees at a “Speculum Salon” where they were asked to meditate on the vaginal imaginary and create their own versions of the next speculum. There is also a clay prototype of the new BLOOM speculum, made by local ceramist Michael Foerster in collaboration with Bustamante. For comparison, there is an adjacent vitrine filled with medical speculums currently in use by the medical field. Lastly, there are three video works within the gallery. One screen presents a video of speculum puppet who tells of the haunting and troubled histories in women’s gynecology. In the back cozy corner of the space, there is a “vaginasium.” Within the vaginasium is an evocative video which pairs breathing exercises akin to Kegel exercises, with sounds and representations of nature, specifically imagery from the nearby Cave Without a Name. The third video is a suggestive and medicative recording of a San Antonio Riverwalk drainpipe the artist noticed on her first day in residence at Artpace. As you make your way through the exhibition, you experience women’s healthcare through time by exploring the horrors of the past, the struggles of the present, and possibilities for the future.

Download English Gallery Notes

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Artpace’s Summer 2021 International Artist-in-Residence program is made possible with the support of the Linda Pace Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts.  

Photo credit: Beth Devillier


Nao Bustamante

Los Angeles, California, USA
Nao Bustamante is a legendary artist, residing in Los Angeles, California. Bustamante’s precarious work encompasses performance art, video installation, filmmaking, sculpture and writing. The New York Times says, “She has a knack for using her body.” Bustamante has presented in Galleries, Museums, Universities and underground sites all around the world. She has exhibited, among other locales, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, the New York Museum of Modern Art, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Sundance International Film Festival/New Frontier, Outfest International Film Festival, El Museo del Barrio Museum of Contemporary Art, First International Performance Biennial, Deformes in Santiago, Chile and the Kiasma Museum of Helsinki. She was also an unlikely contestant on TV network, Bravo’s “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist.” In 2001 she received the Anonymous Was a Woman fellowship and in 2007 named a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, as well as a Lambent Fellow. In 2008 She received the Chase Legacy award in Film (In conjunction with Kodak and HBO). And was the Artist in Residence of the American Studies Association in 2012. In 2013, Bustamante was awarded the (Short-term) CMAS-Benson Latin American Collection Research Fellowship and also a Makers Muse Award from the Kindle Foundation.  In 2014/15 Bustamante was Artist in Residence at UC Riverside and in 2015 she was a UC MEXUS Scholar in Residence in preparation for a solo exhibit at Vincent Price Art Museum in Los Angeles. Bustamante’s video work is in the Kadist Collection.

Bustamante is alum of the San Francisco Art Institute, New Genres program and the Skowhegen School of Painting and Sculpture. Currently she holds the position of Professor of Art at the USC Roski School of Art and Design. There, she also serves as the Director of the MFA in Art.
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Pilar Tompkins Rivas

Los Angeles, California, USA
Pilar Tompkins Rivas is the director of Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) at East Los Angeles College, a collecting institution with diverse holdings including Pre-Columbian, Native American, and modern and contemporary art. At VPAM she has spearheaded partnerships between the museum and the Smithsonian, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botanical Gardens. Prior to her appointment as director, she served as the coordinator of curatorial initiatives at LACMA, where she helped launch and co-directed two Mellon-funded programs for the museum: the UCLA-LACMA Art History Practicum Initiative and The Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program. She has practiced as an independent curator since 2002 and was the director of residency programs at 18th Street Arts Center in Santa Monica.

Specializing in U.S. Latino and Latin American contemporary art, she has organized dozens of exhibitions throughout the United States, Colombia, Egypt, France, and Mexico. Among the exhibitions that she has curated or co-curated are Home – So Different, So Appealing (LACMA; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston), A Universal History of Infamy (LACMA), Regeneración: Three Generations of Revolutionary Ideology (VPAM),Tastemakers & Earthshakers: Notes from Los Angeles Youth Culture, 1943-2016 (VPAM), A Decolonial Atlas: Strategies in Contemporary Art of the Americas (VPAM; Tufts University Art Gallery; Union College; Oficina de Proyectos Culturales, Puerta Vallarta, Mexico; OFF Biennial Cairo, Egypt), Guadalupe Rosales: Echoes of a Collective Memory (VPAM), Patrick Martinez: America is For Dreamers (VPAM), ASCO and Friends: Exiled Portraits (Triangle France, Marseille), L.A. Xicano (LACMA; the UCLA Fowler Museum; the Autry National Center), and Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk (Claremont Museum of Art).
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