Kate Jones reviews She Art Of Now – part of the SheFest Fringe Festival

The She Art of Now

All images courtesy of Kate Derbyshire

International Women’s Day falls on 8th March, and is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women. It has actually been celebrated worldwide since 1911, and the 2016 theme is #PledgeForParity.

SheFest is a Sheffield festival which runs through March, marking International Women’s Day, and hosts many free events for self-identifying women (and men), and anyone interested in feminism and sexual equality.

unspecified 4Running alongside the main events of the festival are many fringe events, and the ‘She Art Of Now’ contemporary feminist art show is one of these events, which kicked off with a pre-show on Wednesday 24th February and runs through until Thursday 3rd March at 35 Chapel Walk Gallery.

I popped along to take a look at the show and see what the ideas behind it were.

The first thing I spotted outside the door was a warning that some of the artworks were not suitable for young children, so if you’re thinking of making this a family visit, perhaps leave the kids at home. Having said that, I know my teenager would have really enjoyed the show, and there was nothing I would have not wanted even my nine year old daughter to see – so long as you are comfortable with art work portraying vaginas (of which there are quite a few) you are fine.

The show came about after a call out for Sheffield based artists to submit contemporary feminist art pieces. The organisers of SheFest together with 35 Chapel Walk Gallery, then selected 16 pieces to exhibit in the run up to the main SheFest Fringe Festival.

unspecified 3The artists involved in the exhibition were: Alison Coldwell, Ashley Oldham and Seren Moon, Laurel Morgan, Kate Howard, Diana Storey and Andrew Heath, Becky Grayson, Aliss Curtis, Alvey Art, Jennifer Clowes, Gemma Lock, Romily Alice, M M M, Tina Ramos Ekongo, Alison J Carr, Dr Paula McCloskey and Zee Ceramics

The chosen pieces move through sexual politics to the taboo, exploring themes ranging from women’s bodies, FGM, and cultural and social representations of women. Fun pieces sit alongside more serious messages, such as the hand-stitched real-life ‘story’ of a six year old girl’s experience of FGM. This is quite harrowing to read, but feels like a necessary message at a time when much is being discussed worldwide on this issue.

I found a set of photographic images, depicting typical views of women in the past, interesting. These show women standing beside domestic appliances, or nursing children, as well as a few exploiting women’s bodies, and the artist has replaced the usual inane, smiling faces with emoji style stickers, suggesting the real feelings of such women.

unspecifiedOne of the stand-out pieces for me was the series of ‘Womanhood’ tapestries, which were a joint art project by the MMM – Monday Monthly Making Group. These depicted various stages and demands of women’s lives, one showing how one woman’s time is divided, including the roles of herself and her partner. Others depict monthly cycles, contraception, and the different roles of women. I found it was interesting to consider these individually first, and then to read the information at the end, detailing how the women had devised them and what they were trying to get across in the tapestries.

The show is a great introduction to the SheFest Fringe Festival, as well as the main festival itself. Check out www.facebook.com/shefestsheffield. For details of the She Art Of Now show, check bit.ly/SheArtOfNow. Festival brochures can also be obtained from the gallery. The show takes place until 3rd March at 35 Chapel Walk Gallery, S1 2DP, and is open daily 10-5 (closed Sunday). Follow Kate at @katejonespp.