New York

Amalia Mesa-Bains

Whitney at Phillip Morris

For the past two decades, Amalia Mesa-Bains has examined ritual space as a site of the production and constriction of feminine identity. Venus Envy Chapter One (or the First Holy Communication Moments Before the End) (all works 1993), was a single-room installation constituting the first of a three-part series that strives to deconstruct the two “feminine identities”—either virgin or bride—that define woman’s place in the Catholic Church.

Hall of Mirrors functioned as both a literal and conceptual frame for Venus Envy. The artist lined the two side walls of the room with mirrors, some of which bore ghostlike images of women in familiar roles—doting mother, reclining Venus—as well as women who have been all but forgotten by history, such as Juana Inés de la Cruz, a nun who defied the repressive dictates of the Church by continuing to pursue her studies and write poetry. Underneath the

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