Gender disparities continue to persist in contemporary art, even today.  Art by women accounted for around 3.3 percent of all auction sales between 2008 and mid-2022, that’s $6.2 billion, out of a total of $187 billion according to the  The Burns Halperin Report.  Due to imbalances such as this, in 2023 SHE/THEY Gallery emerged as a progressive force. 

Rooted in Santa Ana, California, USA, the gallery comes with a mission to address the stark representation gap. They actively fight against the prevailing statistics, aiming to uplift cisgender women and broaden inclusion for those assigned female at birth, transgender women, intersex, and non-binary individuals. They also specifically prioritize women of colour and those affected by trauma, the space ensures visibility and significance, reflecting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Gender Equality.

Exhibition view of Object Permanence by Renée Ortiz. Image courtesy of SHE/THEY Gallery.

SHE/THEY Gallery is housed in the historic Santora Building in downtown Santa Ana, and aspires to attain non-profit status by underscoring the commitment to accessibility, inviting all to join the journey with open minds and blank canvases.

In September 2023, SHE/THEY Gallery, presented Object Permanence, an exhibition that showcases the work of Renée Ortiz as a poignant response to her thesis show, Invisible Women. Ortiz is a multifaceted artist and also the founder of SHE/THEY Gallery who in the exhibition, dove into French philosopher Henri Lefebvre's concept of asserting importance and visibility to everyday occurrences. Ortiz applied this philosophy to women's visibility in society, asking, "If we notice women and hear their stories, can we grant them visibility?"

Jar in Salt Collection by Renée Ortiz. Image courtesy of SHE/THEY Gallery.

Her installation piece, Salt Collection, explores the profound concept of collecting life's tears, drawing inspiration from a verse in the Bible where tears are seen as precious and collected by a caring Creator. For this installation, Ortiz placed jars labelled with 300 personal memories of when she shed tears. She underlines the healing power of tears, akin to salt's ability to cleanse and preserve. As the exhibition intends, the installation highlights her experiences as a woman and showcases what concerns her, sharing her stories so that women who face similar circumstances will also get visibility.

Paper Dolls by Renée Ortiz. Image courtesy of SHE/THEY Gallery.

Her other installation piece, Paper Dolls, delves into the impact of women's clothing on how they are perceived, unveiling vulnerability beneath the outfits. The installation is an interactive piece in which audiences can change the paper attire of a visibly feminine paper doll. Recalling how even today, a woman’s worth is oftentimes still measured by what clothes they wear.  

Ortiz's exploration of Object Permanence raises questions about women's visibility, rights, autonomy, and space in the world. Her commitment extends beyond art, as she works with marginalized women to provide them a voice through the SHE/THEY Gallery’s arts-based platform.

Beautiful Dreamer by Denise Kufus Weyhrich. Image courtesy of SHE/THEY Gallery.

Before that, in August 2023, SHE/THEY Gallery hosted Denise Kufus Weyhrich’s exhibition, Home³: Earth, Heart, Heaven. An artist, curator, and educator, Weyhrich invites audiences into her profound exploration of the diverse meanings of home. Weyhrich's piece, Beautiful Dreamer, does this through an assemblage of personal items such as photographs of women within a family and feminine objects such as laced handkerchiefs and corsages on an American songbook. This piece delves into the complexity of home, loss, and acceptance, recalling all the women who have passed and their struggles and stories. 

Meanwhile, The Curtains Parted shares her experience of living with terminal cancer. The piece presents her daily personal records of taking chemo pills, providing insight into her state of actively living with hope in the present. Home³: Earth, Heart, Heaven becomes a testament to the balancing act of living, accepting circumstances out of control, and looking heavenward. Through her installations, Weyhrich sparks conversations about life, health, and healing, echoing the gallery's commitment to open dialogue with women.

SHE/THEY Gallery stands as a beacon for gender equality in art, addressing the stark underrepresentation of women and gender-expansive artists. Through exhibitions like Object Permanence and Home³: Earth, Heart, Heaven, the gallery not only showcases remarkable artistic talent but also nurtures a community where inclusivity and dialogue flourish. As the gallery journeys toward non-profit status, it invites individuals to participate, engage, and contribute to the vision of a more equitable art world—one where every artist, regardless of gender, can find a home to see and be seen. In this pursuit, She/They Gallery embodies the spirit of gender equality, fostering a space where healing, compassion, and creativity intersect.

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