In a promo video and photo shoot for Cherry Pie — a feminist art show that's going down at Union Shop Studio April 22-May 1 — a woman bows her head solemnly and stands stiff, as someone pours a pitcher of what looks like blood but is actually cherry juice over her head. The liquid drips down, staining her white clothing as she stands motionless with a bouquet of flowers in her hands.
Anything that's dubbed as "feminist art" is filled with all kinds of interpretations and, oftentimes, controversy. Just this video and photo shoot alone is bound to stir up debate. Local artist Grace Stott, the art director for the piece, believes Charlotte needs more art that explores feminism. With that, of course, come issues related to gender, body image, roles and sexuality. For Stott, they were topics worth addressing, as she made it her quest to put a call out to artists for feminist art, which she then cherry-picked to fit for the show.
Stott, an artist working out of studio space at Union Shop Studio, got the idea for a feminist art show after reflecting on works she'd seen in California. She'd gone to high school in Charlotte, moved to the West Coast for art school and returned home with the feeling that something was missing.
The show will feature works from 30 artists, some of which are locals — including Amy Bagwell, Amy Herman, Rebecca Henderson, Emily Braswell, Madeline Lippert, Margaret Strickland, Philp Fore and plenty of others. Mediums include photography, paintings, embroidery, sculptures, video, mixed media installations and more.
Because Stott is curating, she isn't featuring her own art in the show, but it will be on display in her studio located within Union Shop. There will also be brews from Birdsong Brewing Co. and Lenny Boy Brewing Co., and a pop-up market, featuring The Daily Press CLT, Gateau Baking Co., Weird Empire, and DJ Fannie Mae, on Saturday.
Stott asked her friend Melody Rood, who holds a Bachelor's degree in women's and gender studies, to assist her in curating the show. The two wanted to create a show about feminism that just about anyone could gab about. Flyers were distributed, an Instagram page was made, and interested artists were called to jump on board.
Since January, Stott and Rood have spent time collecting art and choosing pieces they thought best represented their goal: Feminist art that is represented in an unexpected and unusual way.
To Stott, feminism "defies cultural limitations and undermines dominant hierarchies."
They agree that art could easily manifest itself in feminism and lift the veil of shame covering its history to be embraced and replaced with beauty and acceptance. The art featured in the show will be a variety of subtle and punchier representations.
Some focus on gender expression while others reveal an appreciation for the female body.
One artist, Margaret Strickland, uses photography to represent feminist ideals related to women in the household. Her photos aim to capture how feminism can be inherited as an heirloom and also shaped by experiences. She is interested in the singularity of the individuals in each photo and how they are portraying themselves rather than focusing on a larger scene or scenario.
Strickland, a photography graduate from the University of Georgia, uses her Southern roots as a backdrop. She feels that even though feminism has come a long way, it still has even further to go in helping to make women's rights equal.
She is particularly captivated by the women in her family and enjoys photographing them in order to further her own feminist understanding. While focusing on female identity, she looks even closer at how identity has formed and changed throughout the four generations of her family history.
"What comes from within? What comes from other women? What comes from society?," are questions that Strickland asks and aims to answer as she shoots photos of her loved ones.
She often photographs her six-year-old niece and wonders about how she will change as she grows older. At what point will her innocence and appearance alter as she becomes aware of things like sexuality?
Strickland also uses her mother, a breast cancer survivor, and her grandmother, a widow, as a muse. Through photographing them over the course of these life changes, she feels she's capturing bits and pieces of the feminism her family holds.
Strickland's photography varies vastly from the show's gritty promo shoots. Aside from the video and photo that we mentioned earlier, other shots featured models that were dressed in red with a pure, white backdrop. Stott provided dozens of cherries that were smeared around to make the scene messy and chaotic.
"The red forced a sense of urgency that embodied the actual lives of women. It was particularly cold that day and we were all freezing. When one of the models had cherry juice dumped on her, we were all waiting with blankets to warm her," says Rood. "It was neat to see everyone coming together."
Rood and Stott say the name of the show stems from varying connotations of being sweet, Southern, domestic, sexual, and messy — adjectives that can also be used to describe the various pieces of artwork featured in the show.
They hope the show will launch a conversation about feminism. That's not to say that they don't expect some negative feedback along the way.
In terms of controversy, they expect that some folks may question the relevance of feminism in society and the nature of the art featured in the show, some of which has sexual implications.
But in the end, Stott hopes the show will bring folks together and help to emphasize the importance of women's rights and equality.
Plus, who doesn't like a slice of sweet, cherry pie?