Astraea Visual Arts Fund

Visual Arts Fund 2010-2011


The Astraea Lesbian Visual Arts Fund promotes the work of contemporary lesbian visual artists. Grants are awarded to artists working in an array of media including sculpture, painting, prints, mixed media and works on paper.

Astraea named Helen Cozza, Jen P. Harris and Ulrike Müller awardees of the 2011 Astraea Visual Arts Fund. Nancy Natale received an honorable mention. The Fund was founded in 2002 to promote the work of contemporary lesbian visual artists who show artistic merit and share Astraea's commitment to visibility and social justice feminism.

Each year, three grants of $2,500 are awarded to artists working in an array of media including sculpture, painting, prints, mixed media and works on paper. Two grants are supported by an endowed gift from founding mother and artist Joan Watts. A third grant is made possible by Skip's Sappho Fund, established at Astraea by a bequest from Skip Neal, a lesbian artist who enjoyed a successful career in museum exhibition.

The awards are determined by a distinguished panel of artists and art professionals. This year's panel included Kimberly Mayhorn, Maia Palileo and Carrie Yamaoka.

Helen Cozza | Albuquerque, New Mexico

Helen Cozza’s work is inspired by the unfinished condition of her childhood home as a metaphor for the construction of her identity as a lesbian.  Just as her carpenter father was constantly in the chaotic process of remodeling their home, Helen, with no positive lesbian role models, was simultaneously bringing her lesbian identity into existence out of the chaos of aloneness and confusion.  She wrote, “What may have been an eyesore to our neighbors (our house) and to my family (my sexual identity) became a significant source of beauty and inspiration to me. I strive to use my art as a visible statement of who I am and how I perceive my place in the world.” Helen’s work has been shown in juried, solo and group exhibitions across the U.S. and in China, Canada and Australia. Her life and artwork were featured in two scholarly journals as well as an art education textbook that focuses on art and social issues. Before moving to New Mexico in 2001, she taught art at both public and private schools in New York and Ohio to support her work as an artist. Currently, Helen is an adjunct professor of Fine Arts at the University of New Mexico. She holds a BA in art education from State University College at Buffalo, New York and an MFA in studio art from the University of New Mexico.

Jen P. Harris | Hudson, New York

Jen P. Harris is a conceptual/representational visual artist working in painting and works on paper. Her recent work engages figuration, perceptual disorientation, and personal and cultural notions about identity to investigate attraction, cognition, and the paradox of the hard and the soft. The art featured here is part of two series. First, American Kiss, encourages viewers to interrogate their ideas about representation and desire.  Jen wrote, “Monochromatic portraits of figures kissing or embracing very directly connect the cinematic image of romantic love with homosexual love and desire.” A new series, Sleep, “offers metaphors of translucency, gravity and transcendence to contemplate the relationship between the ‘genderless’ body, the subconscious, and the human imagination through the lens of my experience, as a queer woman.” Jen’s work has been featured in recent solo exhibitions at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (Wilmington) and the Mooney Center Exhibit Hall at The College of New Rochelle (New York). Group exhibitions include the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation and Gallery 151 (New York, NY); the Summer Festival (Wassaic, NY); and Coagula Projects and The Getty Center (Los Angeles, CA). Among the awards she has received are a grant from the E.D. Foundation; the Robert C. Bates Traveling Fellowship; selection in the Drawing Center Viewing Program; and a residency from the Vermont Studio Center. Jen holds a BA in Art from Yale University and her MFA in Painting from Queens College CUNY.

Ulrike Müller | New York, NY

Born in Austria, Ulrike Müller’s work is driven by a commitment to queer politics and a critical examination of the role of art in society. She writes that her work “engages viewers in a play with associations: Abstract forms are suggestively flirting with a representational logic. In this perceptual process, the social and the individual are inseparable. Individual, even intimate experience, is entwined with culturally shared ideas. In this sense, my paintings are grounded in the desire to participate in a larger conversation about alternatives to traditional gendered norms and lifestyles.”  Recently Ulrike initiated Herstory Inventory, a collaborative drawing project that invites participants to translate image descriptions found at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn into new images as a way of engaging with lesbian feminist history. Recent solo exhibitions include the Cairo Biennial (Cairo), Steinle Contemporary (Munich, Germany), and Artpace (San Antonio, Texas). Her work has been included in many group exhibitions, including X Initiative (New York); Dia Art Foundation at the Hispanic Society (New York); Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University (Cambridge, Massachusetts); and the New Museum (New York). She has been a member of the queer feminist art collective LTTR, is the editor of Work the Room. A Handbook on Performance Strategies, and currently serves as faculty for the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ low-residency MFA in Visual Arts program. Ulrike studied art at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Austria, and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program.

Honorable Mention: Nancy Natale | Boston, MA

Nancy Natale explores memory and personal history: how they collide, interact, become reinterpreted and finally fade away in the blur of time’s passage. Her work uses geometric organization to bring together organic and industrial materials in a unique combination of contrasting elements. She writes, “My inspiration for these works is the female body in today’s harsh world. I have used the butch and femme parts of myself to hammer tacks into pieces of rubber that I cut from used inner tubes, to crochet and paint doilies, to apply chemicals to copper to age and color it and to preserve dried flowers in filmy nets. Uniting these disparate things is beeswax: fragrant, soft, malleable and produced by hard-working female insects living in a hive that exists to support its queen.” Nancy has received a number of grants, including a Pollock Krasner grant, and has organized award-winning shows combining art and the history of place. Her work has been exhibited throughout the U.S., and particularly in New England, and is included in the collections of more than 25 large institutions as well as those of private collectors. Her blog Art in the Studio is widely read for her authoritative, humorous and personal views on making, looking at, and thinking about art.

Visual Art Fund 2011 Panelists

Kimberly Mayhorn - Selected by Essence magazine as one of "30 Women to Watch,” Kimberly Mayhorn is an Emmy-nominated editor and multi-disciplinary artist whose works encompasses installation, sculpture, video, sound and performance.  Kimberly’s art is influenced by the human experience within our diverse histories. While race bears upon her work, its driving force is not so much identity as humanity. Recently her artwork has moved towards assemblage and object based sculptural work often charged with tension between objects and materials occupying the same space.  She has participated in artist residences such as Atlantic Center for the Arts, with Master Artist Radcliffe Bailey; The University of Chicago CSRPC; Sculpture Space; Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts; HARP (HERE Artist Residency Program); AIM19, The Bronx Museum of the Arts and Emerge, Aljira. Kimberly holds a BA in Radio, Television and Film at Howard University and is a Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Fellow.

Maia Cruz Palileo - Through installation, sculpture, painting and drawing, Maia Cruz Palileo revisits personal history to isolate fear, uncertainty, love and loss. She has received the Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Grant and Astraea Visual Arts Fund Award and her work has been featured in Contemporary Art Philippines. She is currently participating in the Bronx Museum's Artist in the Marketplace Program and was recently awarded the New York Art Residency & Studios Foundation 2011 Season 1 Studio Residency in Brooklyn. Born in Chicago, Maia is a first generation Filipino-American.  She holds a BA in Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College and an MFA in Sculpture from Brooklyn College.

Carrie Yamaoka - Carrie Yamaoka is a visual artist whose work has been exhibited widely in the U.S. and internationally. Venues include Artists Space, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, the Wexner Center, Mass MOCA, and the Albright-Knox in the U.S. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at Aeroplastics Contemporary in Brussels; Studio 1.1 in London; and Galerie Lange & Pult in Zurich. Roberta Smith of the New York Times has referred to her work as “a rejuvenation of Minimalism, spurred by new materials, more refined techniques, and fresh ideas.” Carrie is also a founding member of fierce pussy, a lesbian art collective.