Amalia Mesa-Bains

Venus Envy Chapter I

Venus Envy Chapter One (Of The First Holy Communion Moments Before The End)

The project was single room installation, part of a planned 3 part series that serves as a kind of retrospective. The installation revolves around three characters, the virgin, the nun, and the bride, each of which informs the three sections of the work.

On June 18, 2022, Amalia Mesa-Bains presented a two-part exhibition featuring the autobiographical installation Venus Envy, Chapter I: The First Holy Communion Moments Before the End and Madrinas y Hermanas (Godmothers and Sisters), a selection of works from SFMOMA’s permanent collection curated by the artist.
SFMoMA purchased Amalia's exhibit Venus Envy 1, thereby making Amalia a permanent member of the Madrinas and Hermanas artists at SFMoMA.

SF MoMA Exhibition
June 18–November 6, 2022
Floor 2

Amalia Mesa-Bains: Venus Envy, Chapter I and Madrinas y Hermanas (Godmothers and Sisters)

This two-part exhibition features Amalia Mesa-Bains’s Venus Envy, Chapter I: The First Holy Communion Moments Before the End (1993/2022), presented for the first time since it was originally realized in 1993. The first of a series of autobiographical installations Mesa-Bains completed over several decades, the work departs from the artist’s own childhood experience of her first Holy Communion to examine broader codes of gender in Catholic rituals and ceremonial rites of passage, exploring the symbolic roles of the virgin, the nun, and the bride. On the walls, Mesa-Bains juxtaposes writings unearthed through her long-term research and found images to critique the Church’s treatment of women throughout history. In five vitrines, she weaves together carefully selected objects, photographs, mementos, and clothing from her life as well as those collected from other artists and friends. Transforming the entire space of the gallery, Mesa-Bains investigates the processes through which both personal and collective identity are shaped, experienced, and affirmed.

Spanning the two adjacent galleries is Madrinas y Hermanas (Godmothers and Sisters), a presentation of works from SFMOMA’s permanent collection curated by Mesa-Bains and accompanied by texts written by the artist. The works in this presentation were made by artists — including Frida Kahlo, Ruth Asawa, Mildred Howard, and Hung Liu — who represent, as Mesa-Bains describes, “those who came before me and are an inspiration or mentors (Godmothers) and those who I have exhibited with, worked with and with whom I share a vision and purpose (Sisters).”