The term “hero” derives from an ancient Greek word meaning to defend or protect. Over time, this term has taken on gender connotations, in which a hero is defined as having predominately agreed-upon male characteristics. Located in Atomic Tom’s Gallery, an exhibition titled “Rude and Bold Women” debunked this concept by making “sheroes” the theme of the show. A “shero” is a woman regarded as a hero. The existence of this word alone reiterates patriarchal ideals that are prevalent in society. The show explored the need for gender equality through moving pieces that exemplify the beauty of female empowerment.
This past Friday, the exhibition celebrated its 15th year. This milestone is a testament to the dedication and enthusiasm that the founders have for its mission: to identify, encourage and promote female creators to raise social consciousness about women in the arts. The show features both local and national artists who construct new meaning of what a hero is.
“This show gives women a platform and an opportunity to express what it is like to live as a women in a patriarchal society,” said Yvonne Lucia, a principle organizer of the show.
Each artist’s unique interpretation of the prompt, sheroes, delves deeper into the issue of gender inequality. The resulting artwork can be presented through any medium, whether that be sculpture, painting or even performance art. These lax regulations allow for creations like “Margaret Sanger,” by Joyce Shehi. Acrylic on canvas, this painting pays homage to the women’s rights activist for which the piece is named. The portrait of Sanger depicts her as an authoritative figure. Depicted with an expression of determination, Sanger is shrouded in a halo-esque light, created by a stylized version of the birth control pills that she helped to promote. Sanger stands strong and proud while ripping the Comstock Law in half, figuratively ripping down sexual and gender boundaries.
While Sanger might be an obvious choice of “shero,” other artists took more liberal, impressionistic approaches. “My Kingdom in Ruin,” by Megan Smey, for example, features rich, sumptuous colors that highlight the tumultuous relationship between women and the world they inhabit. The image seeks to communicate women’s plight in their struggle to find purpose and inspiration while destroying the boundaries that limit women’s worldview. The work’s abstract nature possesses a transformative quality in which one can connect and supplement one’s issues into the piece, creating solidarity among women’s struggles.
“In 2015 things seem to be getting worse for women,” said Lucia. From unequal pay in the workplace to the possible defunding of women’s health services, issues of gender inequality saturate everyday life. “Rude and Bold Women” attempts to deconstruct these inequalities through the raw, communicative power of art. The exhibit presents cohesive, unified images that incorporate both beauty and poignant messages to create a show, which, as Lucia says, “[E]mpowers women to break the mold and take control of their own creativity.”