Women have come a long way gaining rights and moving outside of the domestic sphere. Influential historical figures such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony fought for our right to vote. Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan became the faces of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and ‘70s. Today many people hope Hillary Clinton can break through the glass ceiling and become the first female president in 2016.
Even though women have made such strides, they still earn less money than men, face sexism in the workplace, and are subjected to stereotypical gender roles. With many politicians commenting on the necessity of birth control, women have begun to reassert their rights in the face of discrimination. Thus, the conversation of where we are going really has begun.
Such issues will be discussed at the 2014 Southeastern Women’s Studies Association Conference hosted by UNCW’s Women’s Studies and Resource Center from March 27th to the 29th. Art will also prevail as part of the conference, thanks to the joining forces of UNCW assistant professor and gallery director Courtney Johnson and associate professor Andi Steele. They organized the exhibit “Mending: New Uses for Old Traditions.”
“Andi came to me with an idea for the exhibition to do in conjunction with the conference,” Johnson says, “so we worked together to narrow the focus to artwork created with or about traditional media or representations of women.”
Making all the final decisions, Johnson and Steele chose artwork created from a diverse range of mediums. From a dress made with workman’s gloves to custom-knitted, full-body cozies, they wanted viewers to be inspired by creativity but also, as Johnson mentions, think about what we consider traditionally women’s work. Women have made countless advancements on both public and private fronts, but there are still many sexist-based hurdles faced daily, which relates directly to the theme of the SEWSA Conference.
Entitled “The Ebb and Flow of Feminism: Navigating the Changing Landscape of Feminism,” this year’s conference hopes to foster an open dialogue that addresses where women have come and where they are going. The past few years have marked the anniversary of landmark moments and legislation crucial to feminism—such the passage of Roe v. Wade and the publication of “The Feminine Mystique,” the legislation of birth control. The conference aims to examine the potential for new avenues of feminist advancement in an historical, cultural, and physical space. The artwork of “Mending” focuses as a visual enforcer for topics the conference will cover.
Commenting upon their own contemporary femininity, the artists of “Mending” have utilized traditionally identified art forms as suitable amusements for women, such as sewing and needlepoint. However, they subvert their traditional feminine associations.
One participating cross-stitcher, Katrina Majkut, transformed the craft, which once proved young women could demonstrate their readiness to run their own household. Majkut stitches birth control pills and ideas on reproductive rights, all with intriguing names like “Control I” “Plan B,” and “I.U.D.s.” She also stitches tampons and pregnancy tests, with names like “Trojan: Her Pleasure,” and turns the down-home flair of hobby into edgy, thought-provoking statements.
“[It] not only challenges the domestic sphere that has contributed to so many ignored discriminatory, social reproductive mores, but presents a bipartisan approach,” she says. “It shows both can positively operate together in order to support women’s reproductive freedoms.”
Majkut recently received her MFA from The School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Her art plays on art history, and how male artists and even advertising have portrayed constructed ideas about the domestic roles of women. As a female artist, she finds it vital to insert herself in this conversation. “My work aims to touch upon feminine experiences.”
In addition to creating a conversation about what it means to be a modern woman today, Majkut says she “wants to address the complicated and conflicting paradoxes in Western culture,” including its simultaneous values and flaws.
With a reception in the midst of and sponsored by the SEWSA Conference on March 28th, from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., the exhibition will be on display through April 4th. Other featured artists in the exhibition include Katina Bitsicas, Asma Chaudbhary, Marie Dorsey, Lou Haney, Devin Harclerode, Ashley Heuts, Regina Jestrow, Ann Marie Kennedy, Gracelee Lawrence, Susan Lenz, Macey Ley, Connie Lippert, Katrina Majkut, Courtney McCracken, Elizabeth Mesa-Gaido, Meg Pierce, Kristin Skees, Page Turner, and Alice Young.
Mending: New Uses for Old Traditions
UNCW Cultural Arts Building,
The Art Gallery • M-F, noon – 4 p.m.
Hangs through April 4th
Reception: March 28th, 5:30-7 p.m.
601 S. College Road