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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"The F-Word: Feminist Art of the 21st Century" Exhibit at Salem College

Part of the "Cou Tor-ture of Glamor" by Kathleen M. Ramich
Doll contestants represent "Anorexia" and "Bulimia"

On entering the Mary Davis Holt Gallery of the Salem Fine Arts Center, a quavering voice greets visitors, singing, "You were a bird in a gilded cage. You had no rights... You've come a long way baby...." But the video that is playing, part of a large multimedia montage by Winston-Salem artist Kathleen M. Ramich, entitled, "The CouTorture of Glamour," challenges the sentiments put forth in the Virginia Slims commercial, asking just how far women have really come, as we continue to manipulate and maim our bodies for the sake of fashion at the expense of our health. The collage includes photos of foot binding, whale-bone corsets and stilettos and information on the effects of these fashion-forward, body-breaking trends.

This, and Ramich's other work, "It Ain't Over 'Til the She Artists Sing," are part of an exhibit at Salem College entitled, "The F-Word: Feminist Art of the 21st Century." Curated by Kim Varnadoe, the exhibit is part of Salem College's "Celebrating 240 Years of Women Empowering Women through Visual Arts". The show itself is a "collection of visual and verbal statements by female artists examining, questioning and reframing the 'norms' of their everyday lives. Provocative themes such as "Paid Less," "Innocence Revisited," and "The Fabric of our Lives," expose cultural mores of contemporary life to the filter of feminism," said Ramich, "Individual and collective struggles and triumphs are documented in materials ranging from paint to industrial piping, from embossed clay to hand-spun yarn, and from video images to dryer lint. Somewhere between the [dis]comfort zone of the status quo and the vision of rebirth, artists and viewers connect and the specific plight of women generalizes to the universal plight of humanity."

"Prayer" by Laura C. Frazier
black earthenware clay,
natural and dyed homegrown felted wool,
 meditation beads, leaf
Felted wool artist and Kernersville native, Laura C. Frazier said that she created her felted wool pieces for the show, "to celebrate a shape that is often attributed to women but also represents earthy fertility. Working with the natural and dyed wools from my sheep along with other natural objects brings such joy and delight to me." She explained that to her, "the important thing [about feminist art] is the critical turn: taking the time to notice patterns of behaviors by and toward women, representations of women, etc., and to ask questions about them in terms of how they contribute to the well-being of women and society.

Across the room, a bright-yellow rubber glove blouse, "Udderly Ridiculous", presents a familiar household accessory in an unfamiliar form, which faces "The Fabric of Our Lives," her patchwork dryer lint cloak in the opposite corner. Their creator, Mary Hurwitz explores the domestic identity of women in her feminist fashion collection.

"The 'F'-word: Feminist Art of the 21st Century" will be open for viewing until January 27, 2012 at the Mary Davis Holt Gallery in the Salem Fine Arts Center at Salem College.
"Udderly Ridiculous" Dish-glove blouse by Mary Hurwitz,
facing her  dryer lint cloak, "The Fabric of Our Lives"

Exhibiting Artists:
Abby Brown
Alix Hitchcock
Barbara Lister-Sink
Dariel Buczek
Diana Greene
Emily Clare
Jenny McShann
Kathleen Ramich
Laura Frazier
Maria Voynova
Mary Hurwitz
Millicent Greason
Nelida Otero Flatow
Nicole Uzzell
Ollie Singleton
Suzie Ross
Vicki Schober


  1. Great write up, Kristi!! Thanks so much for getting the work out about the exhibition!

  2. I just came across this online. I hope this was a great show for all of you, these pieces are all so effective in their own individual ways. Great job!