By: Karen Sandoval-Santana
Artists, academics and activists were invited to attend the Feminist Art Conference to examine feminist issues through art. The theme this year was Embodied Resistance. This comes from the notion that the human body can be treated as a site of resistance to the power structures of patriarchy, says Ilene Sova, the organizer of the FAC.
McClung’s caught up with some of the artists.
Hadieh Afshani and Shirley Siegal met as competitors at an art competition in New York last year. They were both finalists and became friends after their works were displayed beside each other.
Afshani is an Iranian born fine artist and Siegal is an Israeli artist, archaeologist and lecturer. Both women believe that feminism is missing in the Middle East.
Their installation, The First Supper, features two pieces of tablecloth created in different countries. Afshani and Siegal had the unique challenge of not being able to collaborate face-to-face. They would Skype to see each other’s progress. Inspiration came from the hope for a more peaceful future for those living in Middle Eastern countries. Siegal made her piece in Israel, Afshani made hers in America. They stitched their parts together when they met. Afshani and Siegal also believe in the power of women in politics. The plates on the dining table have portraits of influential and inspiring women from the Middle East and elsewhere painted on them. “The dining table has always been the territory of women, to bring family and friends together,” says Afshani. “It doesn’t matter how much they disagree with each other: this is the peace zone.”
Carol Mark’s upbringing taught her a lot about women’s rights. She was taught that baby girls weren’t worth as much as boys and growing up she knew she wanted to make a change. Mark sat on a committee regarding the status of women 20 years ago that discussed how police should deal with rape cases in the future. Mark says she was shocked when the Ghomeshi case ended and he was found not guilty on all charges. This inspired her to do some digging into OCAD’s own sexual assault policy. She found out at the time OCAD didn’t have a policy for dealing with sexual assault. Mark says that schools should be aware that this is a procedure they have to implement. She says that victims don’t always get justice but stresses that victims should bravely speak up because somewhere there will be support. “We need to come together,” she says. “We need to form unity and that’s what feminism means to me.”
“Corsets haven’t been used in years. They deform your body but they are used as sexual instruments,” says Mark. On one hand they’re enticing but corsets also represent the breaking of women.
Wendy Pope and Sussan Thompson:
Wendy Pope has been studying the Kabbalah for over 15 years. The Kabbalah is an ancient framework that studies how to receive lifelong fulfillment. Herself and partner Sussan Thompson wanted their piece in the FAC to enhance the work that they’re doing with their meditation.
Pope and Thompson wanted to undertake a spiritual journey through art. Their installation is a mixed media representation of the Tree of Life. All that exists can find its place in the tree, all ideas and beliefs. Through her art Pope wants to embrace diversity and ditch competition. She says culture has flexibility and the patriarchal system does not. “If you can work with others; everything expands, the basket just gets bigger,” she says. “There’s more room in it and we don’t have to compete for space.”