From painting on the walls of her childhood bedroom to painting murals on walls up and down the East Coast, Marianne DiNapoli-Mylet has always been an artist.
The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art is presenting her exhibition, “Resistdance,” through Sept. 8 with an opening reception on Aug. 15. In it, DiNapoli-Mylet said she is expressing her need to comment on the state of women’s rights and issues in the moment.
Poet Jacinta White will read a poem at the reception that was inspired by one of DiNapoli-Mylet’s paintings, “Vertical Hold.” The show includes an interactive piece for viewer participation.
“I always worked with community, either with murals or teaching,” she said. “Now I have a social responsibility. I feel like we were propelled back to the ’60s. I started drawing go-go girls.
“I have started exploring women’s issues. I thought we were doing better, but we’re not. We have to continue to resist, but we have to keep dancing and stay flexible and unbreakable.
DiNapoli-Mylet moved to Winston-Salem from Camden, N.J., in 1989. Her family had a place in the mountains of Virginia, but when they had a daughter, they explored a little farther and found Winston-Salem.
“And we just liked it,” she said. “There was an arts scene.”
In 1996, DiNapoli-Mylet painted her first large mural in downtown Winston-Salem and went on to create more than 40 murals in New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia.
She founded and led the non-profit, !POWAR! Program (2010–2015), in conjunction with the Winston-Salem Police Department’s gang unit. !POWAR! aimed to inspire and connect underserved youth to their community through art projects. The group created seven public murals.
“I definitely encountered the whole male-female thing when I was doing the nonprofit,” DiNapli-Mylet said. “I felt that male-led organizations received preferential funding.
“I’ve encountered sexual harassment and now a lot of ageism. There are expectations and restrictions put on women that aren’t put on men.”
In 1999, DiNapoli-Mylet co-founded Studios at 625 on Trade Street, a cooperative studio/gallery and managed it until 2017. She was on of the Downtown Arts District Association ADA Board of Directors for many years. After 17 years in the Downtown Art District, DiNapoli-Mylet moved to a small studio in the West Highlands neighborhood of Winston-Salem and a larger studio in the mountains of Virginia to do more personal work.
“‘Resistdance’ ... began as an exercise to exorcise my impotence after the last presidential election,” DiNapoli-Mylet said. “I ... was haunted by the reverberating ‘Nasty Woman’ remarks as well the parallels in attitudes and issues between today and the 1960s.
“I drew and then painted large expressive dancers. I aspired to create from my own perspective. I was influenced by spirituality, including Catholic imagery and Sri Nataraja, a Hindu deity, who, in order to subdue the ‘Dwarf of Ignorance’ must continuously perform the cosmic dance.
“These works also explore my life experiences as a wife, mother, and woman; allowing me to examine my sexuality, female views of self — as sexual creatures and how society views sexual freedom, as well as expectations of ‘acceptable” feminine behaviors — how women are ‘veiled,’ yet must continue to dance out of their confines.”
DiNapoli-Mylet said that as she was researching the 1960s, she came across the work of July Chicago, a groundbreaking feminist artist. Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” a monumental installation, introduced more than one million people to the breadth of women’s art by touring 16 venues in six countries on three continents.
“Looking at Judy Chicago’s work let me realize that I could paint like a girl and look at things from a female point of view,” DiNapoli-Mylet said.
“Resistdance” is part of SECCA’s curated sale series Southern Idiom. DiNapoli-Mylet said that she will donate 50% of my profits from the show to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.