Sunday, 16 April 2017

A new art exhibition in Bedford: Woman & Identity

Good news! We had such a great time with Weaving Narratives that we're doing it again!

There are few changes, though. This new exhibition is not connected with the Bedfordshire Archives, but it is being arranged by two of the contributors to Weaving Narratives, Sophie Atkins and Ana Gonzalez Ortiz. Many of the Weaving Narratives contributors are taking part but there are lots of other artists involved, too.

Here's the brief:

"There is a wealth of female artists working in and around the Bedford area. But where
are they? What issues are they concerned with? We want to create an opportunity to
make these artists and the issues addressed in their art visible to the community in
which they live and work. And so was born our project: Woman - a pop-up multi-
disciplinary exhibition featuring work by female artists in the centre of Bedford.

The ethos of this exhibition is positive exposure. It will provide a fantastic opportunity
for participating artists to gain exposure for their work. But more than that, it will be a
positive force for the community; offering opportunity for a wider and more diverse
participation in the arts in Bedford, bringing the art to the people and also
encouraging an exciting dialogue with the community around art and the issues central
to the work of the female artists. It will be rebellious, fun, thought provoking and

The theme of the exhibition will be ‘Identity’. You may interpret that however you like.
We do not wish to limit ourselves in any way to conventions surrounding womanhood,
as we are all of course so much more than just a gender. You may also like to consider
ideas surrounding the visibility vs. invisibility of women."

The exhibition will open on 5th July at the Panacea Museum in Bedford and run until early or mid-August.

I got hold of a copy of the brief in November 2016 and I've changed direction so many times since then! Women and identity are such broad themes that it's been really hard to nail down one idea that I could make into a piece of artwork.

Initially I wanted to show that many of the creative women I know and who taught me wouldn't consider themselves to be artists at all. Instead, they were sewing, crocheting, making-do-and-mending and all the time supporting one another with a good natter, tea and cake. I had an idea that I'd make a fabric collage expressing these ideas and using these techniques. Here are some examples of the fabric 'patches' I made:

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This was interesting, but it didn't feel right. It felt like an extension of the Weaving Narratives project I did last year. I was ready to move on and try something new.

I'd been practicing my drawing for six months or so, and I wanted to so something with what I'd learned. But I also wanted to use strong colours, so that would mean I'd need to go beyond just the pencil and fine-liner I'd been using up until then.

The trouble was that I hadn't painted anything since I was at school, so that would be another learning curve. Good fun, but had I bitten off more than I could reasonably chew before the deadline? Here are a couple of my experiments with pastels and acrylics. (Oil pastels because I love the bright colours and I happened to have a pack lying around. Acrylics because Mr Google said it was the easiest way to get started with painting - and again, I love the bright colours).

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So I was learning loads but still not much closer to what to make for the Woman exhibition.

I looked to female artists for inspiration and although - again - I learned loads, none of it was close to the way I felt about my identity as a woman. In many ways that was a good thing because so much of women's art seemed to be about oppression and suffering. I totally understand why women have felt the need to express themselves in this way and I feel very fortunate that I don't need to. I'm not especially political, either. I admire women who are, but it's not me. So what was I going to do?

Watch out for the next post and I'll let you know...

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