Ferguson Plays a Role in WCHOF's Latest Female-Focused Show

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

The World Chess Hall of Fame’s newest show, “Ladies’ Knight: A Female Perspective On Chess,” looks at how this male-controlled game of domination, calculation and strategy—traits and strengths traditionally associated with men—inspires works by female artists. And there are many: Crystal Fischetti, Debbie Han, Barbara Kruger, Liliya Lifánova, Goshka Macuga, Sophie Matisse, Yoko Ono (yes, that Yoko Ono), Daniela Raytchev, Jennifer Shahade, Yuko Suga, Diana Thater, and Rachel Whiteread are all part of the show.

“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to showcase such a powerful roster of well-established—and emerging—female artists under one roof,” says Shannon Bailey, WCHOF chief curator. “The artists collectively explore a range of subject matters which offers a visually rich and stimulating viewing experience.”

Section of works featured in "Ladies Knight" | photo courtesy of World Chess Hall of Fame

Selection of works featured in “Ladies Knight” | photo courtesy of World Chess Hall of Fame

The works range in intensity, emotion and sociopolitical commentary: Some are unequivocally feminine, but others, like Yuko Suga’s, are laced with bracing commentary on social conflict. Suga, who also instructs at Craft Alliance, was inspired by the repetitive imagery of media coverage in Ferguson—and of similar images that stretched back for years.

“[It] just kept repeating itself as I kept seeing images over and over again—always the same images … on one side, the national guard and police and on the other side, protestors and people really trying to be heard,” Suga says, adding that it was never an original intent to do a chess set. Rather, it became a natural vehicle to express related ideas of tension, conflict and duality, even when it’s not always so clear-cut.

Ferguson catalyzed the chess set’s creation, but “what was really striking to me about this is that nobody was perfect in that situation,” she says. “We’re all human we all have flaws and just to see how everything refers back to Ferguson—in Cleveland or Baltimore or Charleston—it pulls back to well, Ferguson started this all…[the] striking, intense responses to the events.”

But, she says, while Ferguson was a reference point, it’s not the origin of this genre of imagery. “It really doesn’t start with Ferguson—remember there are other images as well: Throughout time, it’s the same thing that continues to repeat itself … a continued struggle that has gone on decades and decades and decades.” Suga mentions the ripple effect of what’s taken place—similar to how one decision made for one player affects the rest of the pieces on the board: her friends in Ferguson who want to “get back to their lives” and are unable to, the kids who got pulled in to the conflict.

The crafting of the board was intentional and deliberate, taking a full year to ensure each detail had purpose. She began with the pawns, then the back row, working her way around to the base of the board. In keeping with the images perpetuated by the media, “It needs to be the city and the city where things happened—that’s what the media does is bring attention to: where things happen,” she says before relating the work back to how events play out civically.

“The very game of chess itself, with two sides where there has to be strategy and players and intricate coordination of how things move with other things moving at the same time. How are we going to continue to play, and how are we as a community going to make decisions about how things are going to play out?”

“Ladies’ Knight: A Female Perspective on Chess” runs until April 11, 2016 at WCHOF

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