It is a strange time to be an artist in America. With the inauguration of our new leader-and-chief behind us and his administration aiming to destroy the National Endowment for the Arts, it is easy to feel like our creative efforts are futile and our artistic voices have fallen on deaf ears. The truth is, when faced with such political and social unrest, the time couldn’t be better to collaborate, create, and express personal and popular grievances.
This collaborative urge led artist Roxanne Jackson and curator Jessamyn Fiore to organize the Nasty Women Art Exhibition in New York, which has caught on like wildfire in an ever-expanding list of cities. By simply posting on Facebook: “Hello female artists/curators! Let’s organize a NASTY WOMEN group show!!! Who’s interested???” Jackson and Fiore received nearly 700 submissions from female artists from around the world. The Nasty Women NYC Art Exhibition denied no submission and featured works by women artists from all walks of life and in various stages of their careers. Approximately 1,000 pieces were exhibited at the Knockdown Center in Queens, with all proceeds benefitting Planned Parenthood. The entire show sold out in three days, generating an estimated $50,000. The response was and continues to be massive, to say the least.
What started as a Facebook post has now transformed into a global network of Nasty Women Exhibitions taking place in cities across America, Europe and Australia. All the exhibitions follow the guidelines set forth by the Nasty Women NYC Art Exhibition organizers. While the central goal is to include as many women as possible, the mission of the project is definitely anti-establishment. All artworks exhibited in the shows must be priced under $100 and all proceeds must benefit an organization that is supporting women’s rights.
There are currently 35 confirmed Nasty Women venues with exhibitions taking place in such diverse cities as Asheville, North Carolina, and Amsterdam. For any artists, curators, or art organizers who wish to organize their own exhibition, the Nasty Women Exhibition website outlines everything, from an installation plan to marketing materials to submission guidelines. These geographically diverse art exhibitions share a core mission, which is to visually express solidarity and to serve as fundraisers to support organizations that defend women’s rights in the face of political threats to revoke those rights.
The Nasty Women Exhibition project serves as a great example of art as protest and how art can be used as a vehicle for social and political change. Several artistic movements of the past have had degrees of success in spurring social awareness and provoking political change. Dadaism, for example, was a reaction to World War I and highlighted the absurdity of modern warfare. Picasso’s mural-sized painting, Guernica, a response to the Spanish Civil War, captures its atrocity and inhumanity, and has served as inspiration for modern antiwar and human rights movements. Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party is often considered the first great feminist artwork and serves as the fulcrum of The Feminist Art Movement of the 1960s and 70s. Nasty Women Exhibitions join the likes of the Guerilla Girls, Pussy Riot and other feminist artists and activists who serve to amplify the concerns of women during times of political division and unrest. A significant difference however, is that the Nasty Women Exhibitions help women in a tangible way by donating funds to women’s rights organizations.
While its mission may be comparable, the scale and reach of the Nasty Women project is unprecedented. A single Facebook post motivated thousands of women in 35 cities around the world. The power of the Internet and its ability to mobilize large groups and organize new forms of artistic protest sends a clear message of unified opposition.
So while it is a hard time to be an artist, it’s also an exciting time to create art. It is easy to become discouraged in a world where hate has seemingly trumped love, ,and philistines begin to wage a war on culture. But consider this your call to create. In the words of the great Carrie Fisher, “take your broken heart, make it into art.”
Megan Murdie is a writer living in Atlanta.
Upcoming “Nasty Women” Exhibitions:
(Go to the Nasty Women Exhibitions website for updates.)
Charleston, SC January 26-February 4, 2017
Nashville, TN January 31, 2017
Omaha, NE January 28th, 2017
Memphis, TN February 10-19, 2017
Submission Deadline: January 27, 2017
Lexington, KY February 4-25, 2017
Portland, OR | Eutectic Gallery February 3-24, 2017
Las Cruces, NM February 7, 2017
Submission Deadline: February 1, 2017
Portland, OR | Killjoy Collective February 13, 2017
Submission Deadline: February 6, 2017
Leverett, MA February 10-12, 2017
New Haven, CT March 9-April 8, 2017
Durham, NC January 20-28, 2017
San Francisco, CA | Arc Gallery & Studios March 11 – April 15, 2017
Cambridge, England April 21-30, 2017
Lisbon, Portugal February 16- March 1, 2017
Amsterdam, the Netherlands March 4-12, 2012