We Choose Art: Working Toward Gender Equality

WeChooseArt FeminismIt seems that L.A. has been bursting at the seams with feminist-minded events this month — there’s been no dearth of workshops, community gatherings, women’s marches, and just as importantly, art exhibitions. Personally, a month is not enough for us here at LadyClever; these kinds of exposure to feminism should be an everyday thing. Though, it does feel good to know the month of March is alive with the feminist spirit, and it’s a great way to kick off spring.

One such event is We Choose Art: A Feminist Perspective, which is an interactive exhibit at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood, curated by Baha Danesh and Kristine Schomaker. Baha Danesh, a founder of the art collective “L’art Pour L’art” and gallery director of the I-5 Gallery in the Brewery Art Complex, has teamed up with Kristine Schomaker, a director of art Shoebox PR and social media/marketing coordinator at the Brewery Artwalk Association, to create a diverse art installation, featuring both female and male artists working in the L.A. area. The works presented span over 40 years, with art that deals with concepts of race, politics, classism, social commentary, and the representation of women in our culture. Danesh and Schomaker spoke to Lady Clever about their efforts involved in putting together their exhibit at The Montalban.

What is We Choose Art? How did you get involved with it?
BD: We Choose Art is a community built by artists who want to inspire the future. I am the founder and director of We Choose Art, and we thrive on knowing why artists do what they do.

What audience does the event hope to draw?
BD: We Choose Art is targeted [at] all explorers, collaborators, and creative individuals who want to share their reason for choosing art.


How did you get involved with all the featured artists (there are about 18 contributors), and where did the inspiration to collaborate come from?
BD: The inspiration came from our artists. All of our artists are advocates for gender equality and seek to influence cultural attitudes and transform stereotypes.

KS: Baha Danesh, who runs We Choose Art, and I have wanted to curate a feminist show for a while. With Women’s History Month this month, we thought it was the perfect chance to put together a show of artists we have known about for a while. I have studied Feminist art, taught it, and my own work deals with Feminist issues, so it was a natural progression to curate an exhibition focusing on feminism.

Did you have the idea in mind already? Or did you come to the sudden realization that you were connected to all these artists and featuring their work could be a great idea?
BD: The fact that we knew these powerful artists played a huge roll in our decisions. But we also wanted to focus on Women’s History Month and help support artists who create influential art in today’s ever-growing art scene.

What was the process in deciding which artists should be featured, since the collaboration includes work that spans forty years?
BD: Kristine and I have always wanted to curate a feminist show.

Following in the footsteps of famous feminist artists like Judy Chicago, The Guerilla Girls, and Marina Abramović, we have instinctively been manifesting this concept for over 10 years.

KS: We did studio visits and researched quite a few artists for the exhibition. We already had a few artists in mind and chose artists whose work formed a cohesive show.  We also used Facebook to crowdsource for male feminist artists.

Kristine Schomaker and Baha Danesh

Artists Kristine Schomaker (L) and Baha Danesh (R) at We Choose Art

Why do you think featuring art with a feminist perspective is important?
BD:We live in a world of diversity and everyone has a different story to tell about his or her accomplishments [and] struggles in life. Each individual has a special perspective of what it means to be a feminist.

KS: A feminist perspective emulates ideals/ideas brought forth by artists focusing on feminist issues — body image, equal rights, ideal beauty, strong women, identity, and more. We wanted to bring together a show that portrayed these feminist issues.

Do you think women artists are being represented adequately?
BD: Throughout the history/herstory of time, women have not been represented adequately, especially in the art world. But we are on the right path.

With movements like “Art and Feminism: A Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon” (a campaign to improve the coverage of women and the arts on Wikipedia) and other activities in the art world, we have started a positive dialogue to help represent and preserve women sufficiently.

KS:No. While more and more galleries are showing women artists, we are still a long way from equality. Micol Hebron’s Gallery Tally Poster Project shows this clearly.


April Bey, April Bey

Why did you decide to include both male and female contributing artists? How do you think men can be a part of the feminist movement?
BD: We are striving for a world of gender equality and it starts with including everyone.

KS: While feminism is about equal rights for women, it is not just fought [for] by women. Many men support women and fight for equality for all. We had a couple male artists whose work focused on strong women characters or had themes dealing with body image and stereotypes, but we wanted to find more. After the exhibition was installed, we found a few more male artists whose work would have fit right in. I am making a list for next year.

How does the art being featured promote feminism and gender equality?
BD:All contributing artists have works of art that reflect their life experiences. Each composition shines a light on the concepts of race, class, culture, politics, social commentary, body image, and self-acceptance.

I believe creating art is a form of expression that creates culture, and culture shapes values, and values determine the future — and yes, even the future of gender equality.

Although the opening reception was held this past Friday, March 13th, the exhibit will continue on throughout the rest of the month, into April 4th. Don’t miss out on this amazing 3-week pop-up exhibit! For more information, visit the We Choose Art Facebook page.

Cover Image: Kristine Schomaker, Avatars

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