Art can often be a vehicle that enables society to think about issues in ways that the media or other industries cannot. When we talk about needing “change”, the biggest way to accomplish this is through everyday culture, and art and creativity can sometimes be a hell of a lot more powerful than a podium-thumping politician or a desk-banging news anchor.
Art can infiltrate the way we think, feel and act towards the issue of gender equality, for example. Two art projects which aim to bring current women’s issues to prominence are gaining attention from the media for their thought-provoking prose and content.
The first comes from Peruvian artist María María Acha-Kutscher whose series of paintings titled ‘Indignadas’ was created to bring the specific struggles women are facing in current events to prominence.
Her series was launched in 2012 and the paintings were created from actual photos taken in the press. The events she focused on were Occupy Wall Street, Free The Nipple, Slutwalk and feminist groups such as Femen and Pussy Riot who have gotten in trouble for their protests.
“The aim of the Indignadas series is to make women’s efforts more visible and place women at the center of these social struggles. A memory bank that shows future generations that social changes throughout history were made by women and men together,” the artist explains on her site.
“I believe that art is a powerful political tool to contribute to a better world,” she told .Mic in an interview. “A world where equality between women and men might be possible.”
“Social changes throughout history were made by women and men together, and the failure to recognize women’s role in this is an exercise of patriarchal control. I believe that art is a powerful political tool to contribute to a better world,” she told Mic. “A world where equality between women and men might be possible.”
Another reason for her project stated on her website is so that future generations are aware of the crucial role women played in history, as it is not uncommon for women’s stories to be left out in favor of men’s in text books.
Closer to home in the US, a group of activists and artists from New York called Guerilla Girls have created an installation called ‘Not Ready To Make Nice’ which actually challenges the presence of women in the art world itself. The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia hosted signs made by the group which wanted to ask the question “do women have to be nude to get into a museum?” with their project.
“I’m interested in how the Guerrilla Girls are taking humorous, body-centric feminist ideas from the 1970s and reincorporating them with their modern work through this contrast of ultra-feminine materials and their overall tone,” said Sarah Kate Gillespie, American art curator for the Georgia Museum of Art.
They regularly inject feminist themes and examine the lack of female representation in the art world throughout history. The group, which has been around since the 1980s want to highlight the work of women and people of color in the art world.
This exhibition has toured around the country at various art spaces and universities, bringing the message of the importance of female artistry and feminism to the current generation.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, the members of the group like to remain anonymous by wearing Gorilla masks, according to recent press.
While both art projects are vastly different, there is certainly a common thread: the need to examine deeper and question the ways women are portrayed in everyday culture. There is a rising need to hear more women’s voices and points of view which sometimes get ignored in broad topics, but get plenty of attention when it is a specific women’s issue (like the ‘Free the Nipple‘ or ‘Slutwalk’ protests happening all over the world).
The issue of black men in America being disproportionately targeted by police is not just a gender issue, it is a race issue which also affects the women in these communities. The #blacklivesmatter solidarity movement showed many feminist groups standing by the men who are feeling the burden of racial tensions, because when one life is affected by a tragedy, it has a ripple effect throughout the community.
Indignadas and Not Ready To Make Nice may have a decidedly female focus, but they are a loud and clear message to the world that women’s issues are just as important and don’t deserve to be given the “special category” or “soft issues” treatment that we sometimes see in the media.
Like Hillary Clinton said in her famous speech in Beijing in 1995, human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights. In the same way, issues of race, class, socio-economic status and representation are not only women’s issues, but issues that affect everyone.
Here are some more images from the Indignadas project that really resonated with us: