CFAM Debuts First Museum Presentation for Artist Ria Brodell

An exhibition of work from artist Ria Brodell challenges gender norms and explores the concept of devotion.

Ria Brodell, St. Anthony Finds G.I. Joe’s Gun, Gouache on paper, 11 x 15 in., 2009, Courtesy of the artist Ria Brodell, St. Anthony Finds G.I. Joe’s Gun, Gouache on paper, 11 x 15 in., 2009, Courtesy of the artist

Ria Brodell disrupts traditional narratives and offers multifaceted ways to experience the concept of devotion. While Brodell’s art stems from personal experience, the works in this exhibition, Ria Brodell: Devotion, allow for a nuanced rumination on gender and sexuality from both historical and contemporary contexts.

The exhibition includes works from the artist's series, Butch Heroes and The Handsome & The Holy. Butch Heroes presents highly detailed paintings of historical subjects who challenged gender norms. The paintings, accompanied by texts written and researched by the artist, incorporate the structure of Catholic prayer cards; the artist’s aesthetic approach is deeply informed by a Catholic upbringing.

Ria Brodell, Cora Anderson aka Ralph Kerwineo, 1876–1932, United States, Gouache on paper, 11 x 7 in., 2017, Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas Ria Brodell, Cora Anderson aka Ralph Kerwineo, 1876–1932, United States, Gouache on paper, 11 x 7 in., 2017, Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas

These meticulous paintings are accompanied by scholarly documentation compiled by the artist to document the subjects portrayed. In explaining the motivations of the earlier series, The Handsome & The Holy, Brodell writes, “I am interested in the play between queer desire and the construction of gender identity as seen alongside my religious upbringing. This series of work attempts to catalog the influential, yet seemingly paradoxical, figures in my personal history.”

Featuring new and recent work by Brodell, this exhibition recontextualizes devotional imagery in the permanent collection of the Cornell Fine Arts Museum. “Ria Brodell’s art speaks to the very mission of our teaching museum by pairing contemporary issues with historical precedents, and personal expression with the traditions it acknowledges and transforms,” says museum director, Ena Heller. Paintings by Lavinia Fontana and Cosimo Rosselli and works on paper by Luca Cambios and Andrea Andreani are shown alongside Brodell’s works. Most significantly, Ria Brodell: Devotion allows for complex readings of gender in historic terms and through a religious framework. This is the artist's first solo exhibition at a museum.

Ria Brodell, Olga Nikolaevna Tsuberbiller, 1885–1975, Russia, Gouache on paper, 11 x 7 in., 2014, Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas Ria Brodell, Olga Nikolaevna Tsuberbiller, 1885–1975, Russia, Gouache on paper, 11 x 7 in., 2014, Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Kayafas

Born in 1977 in Buffalo, New York, Ria Brodell received an MFA from the School of the Arts, Boston. Brodell’s work is included in the collections of the Davis Museum at Wellesley College and Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, among other prominent institutions. Brodell’s paintings were recently on view at the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle and Gallery Kayafas in Boston.

On display from January 20 to May 13, 2018, Ria Brodell: Devotion will be one of three solo, contemporary art exhibitions presented by the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in 2018. The other exhibitions will present the work of Trong Gia Nguyen and Jamilah Sabur and will also mark the artists’ first solo presentations at a museum.

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Friday, February 22 | 11 a.m.
Exhibition Tour

Tuesday, March 20 | 6 p.m.
Artist’s Talk