As part of International Womens Day, a curator in Leeds began to set up an exhibition which only female artists could exhibit work and only females would be able to view the work. Naturally this caused a huge amount of controversy, as soon as details were posted on social networking sites people (especially males) had something to say about this. The exhibition was set up to find out whether females would view work differently without male influences around them, it was never described as a feminist exhibition and yet it was immediately labelled that. The individuals exhibiting their work within the exhibition were female fine art students from Leeds Met. It was to be held in an old wedding dress shop not far out of Leeds City Centre.
The publics reaction varied, there were a lot of negative comments about the motives behind the exhibition, including opposition from second years of visual communication, though whether they had taken time to understand, listen to and read the thoughts behind the exhibition were somewhat debatable.
This kind of view on the exhibition was not the only one, but was one of the few females against the idea. Here are more examples of opposition and support.
This comment in particular was of huge interest to me, its like because there was a backstreet small exhibition which was only for women, that people had suddenly forgotten about all of the men only things we STILL have in society, including Gentlemans clubs and for a long time the Freemasons.
Though it is easy to disagree with something online, but whether any of this kind of opposition would impact the actual night was another question, some people expected this to have men trying to enter because really they wouldn’t be able to be stopped, some people thought there could even be some violence/verbal abuse of the girls attending the night. However the outcome was very very different.
Upon arrival there were beverages provided and we were directed upstairs to the exhibition room where you were able to walk around the small amount of pieces of artwork they did have, there was even a performance piece done by one artist which addressed the ideas of heroines where she wore various masks, and removed an item of clothing e.g. tights etc until she was wearing a swim suit and a small mask, each time she entered the room after her next change the room went silent and everyone gathered around as she moved into various typical superhero poses, when she left the room everyone went back about their business talking in groups.
Other pieces were very different to one other, there was a series of photos, a huge canvas with teabags dripping, some very ornate wall paper made up of the female form and a vast poster/photograph of a naked woman trapped within a net which was to do with males expectations of women.
As I walked around the room, I noticed a note attached to the wall which read ‘I have decided to take this painting, not for my own gain but instead I have taken it for moral perspective, I oppose what this piece represents’. Curious as to what had happened, I spoke to the curator and she explained that
Overall the exhibition was a really interesting experience, I personally did feel more comfortable viewing images and artwork of the female form without male onlookers, had it been a mixed exhibition its the type of work I would usually just walk past uncomfortably through fear of judgement, having only females around made the entire thing much more comfortable as people looked at the pictures. These views were echoed by many of the other people there, some said had this been a mixed exhibition they felt like if they lingered too long at an image they may feel like their sexuality was being questioned but with all women there they felt a lot more at ease. I think deeming the exhibition sexist is extreme, but understandable, its a shame other members of the public didn’t see the positives of it as it was really interesting.