“New Icons” is the first solo exhibition of 12 paintings and one recorded interview compilation by Grace Athena Flott at the Port of Seattle Pier 69. Supported by a Hope Corps grant from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, “New Icons” celebrates the lived experience of folks with visible differences, specifically burn survivors.
Solo Exhibition by Grace Athena Flott
Port of Seattle Pier 69, Washington state
Through February 29, 2024
Remixing medieval and Renaissance iconography motifs to highlight contemporary body politics, Flott presents realist portraits of her underrepresented community alongside abstract works depicting patterns printed directly from scarred skin. Paramount to her process is Flott’s conscientious exchange with each subject, a collaboration meant to counteract common experiences for those with visible scarring: toxic staring, comments, or outright harassment.
While each subject is painted in meticulous life-size detail, Flott combines scar prints into the portraiture as well as unique works of pure pattern and color that, together, weave the stories of each individual into larger narratives of body liberation, health, and beauty redefined.
The painting “Let it Shine” (shown at top) barely contains the radiance of its subject Kari, a white femme-presenting person with visible scarring across her face and upper body. Contrary to the mainstream portrayal of injury and physical difference, she stands unapologetic and self-possessed with arms thrown back behind her head. Her body language seems to greet and merge with the sun, emphasized by acerbic yellows and turquoises suggestive of an electric landscape. Kari’s voice is audible in the exhibition as part of a recorded montage of all the participants. In her own words, she discusses navigating an ableist society wherein physical desirability determines social and economic value. With frankness and levity, she speaks on the intersection her identities as a fat woman with scars and how she embraces self-love.
Flott created “Let it Shine” over half a year and her labor is visible in the textural sensitivity of Kari’s skin and complicated expression behind her eyes. Flott’s meditative process is also thanks to her dedication to fostering reciprocity and consent with her subjects through extensive interviews. In “New Icons,” each subject toys with a normative gaze — staring back at us or beyond us — not with contempt, but rather a joyful reclamation of their place in the canon.
Flott is a recipient of the Seattle Oﬃce of Arts & Culture Hope Corps Grant and was awarded First Place in Artistic Excellence by Southwest Arts Magazine. Her work is exhibited in solo and juried group exhibitions internationally including with the Museum of Modern European Art (MEAM), Barcelona; Salmagundi Club, New York City; Figure|Ground Gallery, Seattle. Her paintings have been published in Fine Art Connoisseur and Realism Today. She is a graduate of the University of Washington and Juliette Aristides Classical Atelier. Flott lives and works in Seattle, WA.