New paintings coming soon! I’m developing my series of bodiless dresses, which is about refusing to apologize for femininity, recognizing that pretty isn't weak.
In most cultures, women are judged first and foremost by their appearance, and only after that by who they are and what they are capable of doing. Instead, I choose to reclaim that beauty, saying, "Yes, women are beautiful; and talented and strong and intelligent and confident and capable!"
This seems like the right time to be doing this – with movements like HeforShe gaining momentum (see Emma Watson’s speech to the UN) and the commentary on women (and what they were wearing) in the control room for India’s Mars mission: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-29357472.
I got the series’ title from Beyoncé's song, Flawless. I’ve never really listened to Beyoncé before she released her self-titled album last year, but now I’m a fan – she is certainly a feminist and I like how she’s doing it. What I get out of this song is that women shouldn’t concentrate on their perceived flaws, but instead be confident and wake up feeling “flawless” every day.
“We flawless, ladies tell 'em
I woke up like this
I woke up like this.”
I love it. Of course, you could argue that it’s easy for someone like Beyoncé, with that voice, that body and her amazing success, to feel flawless. But I think she’s using her success to advocate for all women to be confident, do-it-herself, proud and unapologetic. She also sings about body image and the negative sides of trying to be beautiful all the time in the powerful and emotion-filled song, Pretty Hurts. While this topic is equally as important, I’ve chosen Flawless as my title because I’m advocating for and interested in the confidence to be feminine, pretty AND feel powerful.
And then of course there’s the clip in the middle of Flawless from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDxTalk "We Should All Be Feminists." I’ve included the full talk below – please watch it, it’s amazing and well worth 30 minutes of your time. Among the many good points Adichie makes, she advocates for gender equality coming from both men and women, and for letting go of all the negative baggage associated with the word "feminist", remembering the dictionary definition:
“Feminist: a person who believes in the social,
political, and economic equality of the sexes.”
She posits that "culture does not make people, people make culture" and hence the cultural norms of women as second-class citizens can, and must, be changed. Thus, Adichie's own definition of a feminist includes an action item:
“A feminist is a man or a woman who says,
‘Yes, there’s a problem with gender as it is today,
and we must fix it; we must do better.'”
Powerful stuff, and I'm on board. I was also really struck by Adichie's phrase "refusing to apologize for femininity.” I’ve spent many years trying not to be too feminine and trying not to make feminine art, but now enough is enough. I am a woman, I’m proud of it, and being feminine does not make me weak. In fact, it makes me strong, and I hope that my art will add to the culture shift that is taking place right now.