Posts tagged Art as a political and social tool
Concrete Catwalks ~ When Art Meets Fashion

Designing the new collection is not only about creative expression but trying to use this platform to represent women ~ women of colour.

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The original images come from American Vogue, which I buy in September as it’s their major release for the up and coming seasons. The magazine is more like a book, full of advertisements by brands showcasing their latest products.

Love Inclusivity - pencil drawing with digital manipulation.

Love Inclusivity - pencil drawing with digital manipulation.

What has always struck me is the lack of diversity of women of colour in this publication, to be fair this is not the only one. Even though it is seemingly high on everyone’s agenda, there is still a clear lack of representation. It is improving but slowly.

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Flicking through the pages made me reflect on my own childhood and that of my mum and Aunty, who are both mixed race. They were adopted so any cultural alignment was severed so the only sources they could potentially align with were role models within the mass media. Sadly this was not the case. And made me think where are the role models now? Where can women of colour look? Where can they see someone similar in film, in magazines or on tv?

Girl with a Pom Pom Hat - mono print with acrylic paint.

Girl with a Pom Pom Hat - mono print with acrylic paint.

Now I am under no illusion, I know I am not able to change the world on this front. I am a solo person hoping to use my creativity to shed some light on this issue.

I hope my drawings and digital illustrations, that are printed onto t-shirts, allow this message to be communicated on the streets, creating a concrete catwalk if you like and not only held within the confines of a gallery. So the visual narrative is out there for everyone to see and support the visibility of women of colour.

Identity, Representation and Art

Starting this brand was motivated by a number of factors, namely representation. Having experimented with numerous mediums and multiple concepts I wanted to concentrate on one core value, which was diversity. 

Flood fill colour on photoshop 

Flood fill colour on photoshop 

Previously I have written about race, my identity and growing up in a world where there were very limited faces and more importantly role models I could align myself with.  One minute I did not fit, the next I did. It has always been confusing, the notion of identity. 

The disconnection from Indian culture that is part of my mums heritage, lost through her adoption has always resonated with me. It has been a productive catalyst inspiring my creativity. 

Mark making with the brush tool in photoshop 

Mark making with the brush tool in photoshop 

Art allows for a platform, a voice to be heard through visual expression and communication. Experimenting with my favourite media - collage, mixed media and print making has been both therapeutic and exciting conceptually.

Whilst there have been a variety experiments with other concepts such as capitalism and consumerism inspired by The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, which I will write about at a later date. I knew I wanted to focus on this notion of diverse, identity representation and trying to create a space to express this. 

This led up lots and lots of different experiments before I had settled on the final design, which I had written about last week. Who knows if these will turn into something? 

Water colour painting that I started and stopped as I quite liked the combination between the black and white elements in stark contrast to the colour.

Water colour painting that I started and stopped as I quite liked the combination between the black and white elements in stark contrast to the colour.

The name of the original piece has always been called Abstract Asian, which is always close to my heart and will continue to be the most important imagery and is an avenue I wish to explore more. 

 

 

 

Stay in your Lane

The gal-dem second birthday party aka second print launch was great fun. There was such a positive atmosphere with the walls being adorned with the content, drawing people to read the articles and view the photographs accompanying them. Music and film projecting many different women, mainly singers, from recollection, also filled the space. Good chat, great rum cocktails and women enjoying the company of other women within the event. Men were there but only a few. Maybe it is a bit intimidating being amongst all that oestrogen? Welcome to our world hey? 

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The rest of the evening was spent sipping cocktails and driving off the sleep with chat about many things, along with art, women and empowerment. 

However, what began as a jubilant evening turned into one where I experienced very heavy criticism from someone who questioned my advert, my intentions regarding the print choice, use of the term women of colour ("what does that even mean?", "Create a platform, what, how are you doing that with that?") and me being perceived as white. It was hard to not get defensive and the trouble is, where you are thrown off guard it is difficult to articulate yourself in a meaningful manner. For them I was profiteering off the image of women who would not gain any benefit. It was another example of a moment in time where people would be in fashion and then be dropped without any consideration. And all for whose benefit? Not the ethnic community. 

I felt upset that that would be the perception that someone would think I would exploit other people for my own gain as I would never do that, that is not me and they would know that I they did but this is the reality not everyone is going to know my intentions. 

My response was that the t-shirt was chosen for the ad as it is the most colourful print and as it is an ad you want to draw people in. The other prints have women from different ethnic groups, which could have been used but not as strong visually.

Women of colour is a statement to celebrate all women that self identify and draw on the fact that there is a huge difference in the representation of diversity with the fashion and media world. That is my comment, my focus and the platform I intended for discussion although it may not be obvious. 

Yes I am mixed race (30% Indian, I did a DNA test) and whilst I know that most people assume I am Spanish or South American, although someone guessed Bangladeshi on Friday, but that is neither here nor there. The point is I am mostly white and definitely afford the privilege of that but moreover I am not ignorant about that fact either. However my experience of growing up was not that and was bullied due to my ethnic difference being very obvious in a small white working class town. So that has definitely left its mark and was something I struggled with for many years. It was an embarrassment to be ethnically different especially in the 80's when the term 'Paki' was thrown around without conscious thought for the other persons feelings. Plus my mum being adopted did not allow for any cultural identity to be formed so I feel that sadly is not within my experienc either. But where do you draw the line? Is my experience enough, is being mixed enough, am I too white so I should not comment on issues surrounding race? 

The point of the brand was to raise more awareness of the lack of women of colour within the fashion and media world at large. But maybe that is too political overall in terms of visual imagery and representation. Maybe I should stay within my own ethnic group, albeit as diluted as it may be. Maybe I do not have a platform here? Maybe I should just stay in my lane as the title suggests? But maybe I am allowed a voice. I know I do not speak for all women, I do not want too. I have no idea what it is like to be judged as a black women or a Chinese women. All I have are my own experiences, which is where I drew the inspiration from after feelings angry that still in the 21st century we are still dealing with diversity issues. 

So whilst I have been reflecting on the negative comments I have also drawn some positive conclusions. Maybe I do need to streamline the visual imagery I use? Coincidentally I have been drawing more Asian women recently so there maybe a subconscious thought to focus on that more as there is a definite lack of Indian women in these worlds, which is saying something given the lack of black and Chinese women, to mention a few. But imagery is important and I do need to be thoughtful and considerate when using it. I need to think of the way the brand is being perceived and the messages being said directly or indirectly. 

I also need to be stronger in myself regarding the brand and the ethos behind it, articulate myself better and with confidence. And like anything, criticism is part of life and you have to take the rough with the smooth, life cannot be peachy all the time. Life is not like that, so onwards and upwards.