Various Small Fires is proud to present Reclamation, a group exhibition featuring Ari Brielle (Dallas), Zoe Buckman (London/New York), and Cynthia Mulcahy (Dallas). Presented at VSF’s Texas location, the exhibition is borne out of the ever-urgent conversations surrounding access to reproductive and gynecological care in the state and beyond. The urgency is heightened in a post-Dobbs Texas, where the lives of those able to conceive are put in precarious danger daily. The three artists in the exhibition span generations, race, and geography, providing unique perspectives on reproductive health, as well as gender and racial biases in healthcare.

Ari Brielle’s recent photo-based explorations document her experience with endometriosis as part of a larger interest in the intersections between Black-Americans, science, and exploitation in the United States. Brielle processes personal, physical, and emotional challenges while acknowledging generations of medical neglect experienced by Black women and femmes. The eugenics movement and the development of gynecology on non-consenting enslaved Black women, for instance, reveal long-standing implications of racism in medicine that is backed by contemporary reports that illustrate the physical pain reported by people of color and women is taken less seriously by medical professionals. In Brielle’s works, images printed on delicate silk depict her body post-surgery - removing the excess inflammatory tissue that endometriosis causes to spread throughout the abdomen - and laptop screenshots, serving as a visual diary of navigating her quest for health.

Zoe Buckman works with found textiles to pair associations of ‘women’s work’ with hard-pressing themes of female and genderqueer resilience. Through painting, drawing, embroidery, appliqué, and sculpted forms, Buckman captures figures in her community that have faced issues including gendered violence and struggles for sexual health. Her tender portraits celebrate these figures, based on photographs that focus on intimate moments in their daily lives. Text-based works emphasize a contrast between delicate material and searing messages, encapsulating the many tensions at play in Buckman’s practice.

Cynthia Mulcahy applies a background in history to research the foundation for bodies of work exhibited here: Abortion Seed Library and Abortion Tea Caddies. In both, Mulcahy presents a wide range of seeds, herbs, and fruit-bearing plants that have been historically used as contraceptives and abortifacients. Her research finds these botanical agents have long histories in world societies, cited in texts from ancient Babylon, Greco-Roman literature, and published in a manual by Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, to name just a few. Altogether, the works display the varied methods by which people have sought to control their fertility and health over millennia.

Life-saving human rights lie at the core of each of these artists’ works. The exhibition takes place just steps away from the Dallas courtroom where Roe v. Wade was first argued in 1970, a poignant reminder of a battle for autonomy and care that continues to unfold over 50 years later.