Negative reactions to ‘pink’ and feminine art intrigue me. It reminds me of my 13 year old self, mocking the pretty blonde girls in teen films and girls at school in pink tracksuits with ‘juicy’ stamped across their bums on non-uniform day. During this phase I refused to wear anything feminine instead hiding beneath my baseball hat to cover my acne with nirvana vibrating down my eardrums from my Walkman. I quietly felt above it all.
Those thoughts stayed with me for some time. We see pink and hyper feminine as inferior and frivolous. It seems that masculine is the norm and anything else is substandard. Pink is the only truly gendered colour, think of all the corporations, brands, apps that adopt blue as their colour. Blue does not scream BOY, its just blue, but heaven forbid if all those apps on your phone screen were to turn pink.
Its no coincidence that the one colour in my wardrobe that has grown in recent years at the same rate as my interest in feminism, is pink. I’m not afraid of pink anymore now that we know gender is a spectrum and binaries are just archaic constructs waiting to be broken. I now feel free to experiment with femininity without qualms; it is for anyone to play with.
Barbara Kruger was spot on when she emblazoned ‘your body is a battleground’ across her poster for the Women March in Washington in 1989, being female identified is still a battleground, there are so many fine lines to traverse. From objectification v.s empowerment in embracing your sexuality, enjoying buying into advertising, beauty products, fashion whilst knowing we’re buying into consumerism, and the ideal woman. Navigating social media and being conscious of the online persona we project, mirroring the media we consume. The internal debate of succumbing to gender stereotypes or simply embracing and celebrating femininity, to name just a few.
Sitting in my art studio at Uni that I share with Bex Ilsley, we bitched and moaned about these paradoxes. We decided we wanted to do something and so as part of a module at Uni we took it upon ourselves to produce a publication and exhibition that came out of our frustration with these fine lines that we’re teetering across. With the help of fellow art students Bella Jones and Cerys Thorne we formed Soft Matter, the artwork and articles in Soft Matter Exhibition and Publication explore the many nuances that underpin femininity; performing identity, gender, the grotesque, body image, sexuality, sensuality and embarrassment.
I was so inspired by the wealth of talented female identifying art collectives such as The Bunny Collective, The Coven, The Arduous, Clandestine Collective and World Wide Women Collective and the driven, ambitious women that lead them. As well as online spaces and platforms that have evolved into DIY publications for people to connect and showcase female creative talent like Girl Get Busy, Peachy N Keen, The Le Sigh, The Pulp Zine and Rookie magazine - an online space that truly empowers teenage girls.
Our aim for the show was to bring some of these creative people together from around the world, the U.K and also showcase home-grown talent from Manchester and the north of England in one place to celebrate the art that’s being made by young women that grew up in the wave of 90’s girl power and are starting to change the art world.
Some may demean the work by calling it a trend but I’d like to call it a movement.
You can read the publication online and order it in print here and you can check out all the images & art from the exhibition here.