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In A Fort Worth Fourplex, An Art Show Trains Its Gaze on Girls


by Ariana Vera 27 Jan 2017

Its the second exhibit from Neighborhood Cult Productions, which shows emerging artists in unconventional spaces

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The Dallas Observer, Austere Magazine,  and 3,600 “interested” Facebook users had their eyes on Girl Gaze, an all-girl art installation in Fort Worth, last Saturday.

This much attention could have been a problem.

See, the show wasn’t in a gallery. Curator Sarah Moore set it up in her house. And she lives in a fourplex.

There was no public bathroom. That’s because Moore’s bathroom was part of the show. Moore dripped hot-pink wax all over the house, lit up her tub with a pink fluorescent light, lined it with vines and roses and placed tampons and panty-liners on the toilet.

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Bathroom featured work of artists Kate Stipp, Lita Bush and more. Botanical design courtesy of The Greenhouse 817.

Actually, every room in the house was taken over by artists.

And it worked. Girl squads, men and families filtered in and out for six hours.

The concept for the show came to Moore in September. She was inspired by #GirlGaze, a national project to address sexism faced by female photographers. The project turned into a social media movement with 43,000 followers on Instagram, a bi-annual zine and an exhibition in Los Angeles. It’s also sparked individual projects, like Moore’s, around the country.

As visitors made their way through Moore’s house, they encountered the work of 13 artists. In the kitchen, they could read through a journal about quitting shaving. In the living room, they pulled slips of paper with phrases such as “I didn’t know girls could be engineers” from a dresser drawer. Each item of clothing in the bedroom closet had a comic book panel sewn onto it. You could sit on Moore’s bed to look at a series of paintings and photos, and yes, possibly trip over a hot pink adult-toy on the bedroom floor.

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Closet installation featuring clothes with hand-sewn comic panel patches by Brie Underhill.

Kate Stipp loved the placement of her illustrations – women putting on makeup hung near the bathroom mirror;  women balancing home appliances on their heads were displayed on the kitchen fridge. 

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Balancing Act II made with mixed-media and paper by Kate Stipp.

“It feels voyeuristic almost, like you’re encroaching onto someone’s space and life,” said Stipp.

This is the second show Moore has created as part of  Fort Worth-based group, Neighborhood Cult Productions. Inspired by street art, DIY culture and Dadaism, the group hopes to stage shows in unconventional spaces, according to its Facebook page.

Moore’s first show, “Don’t Call Me Baby”,was a  gritty attempt to claim space in stereotypically male-dominated fields of  art, punk music , graffiti and skateboarding. But with Girl Gaze, Moore wanted to examine a softer and intimate side of feminism, and  another side of herself. So she asked the artists to use a pink and peach palette, and explore ownership and rejection of these stereotypically feminine colors.

“I wanted it to be a surrealist glimpse on how a women goes about living her life but without male objectification” Moore said.  “Sexuality in a really beautiful way. And to have the perception of several different women.”

One of these women is Brie Underhill, a comic artist who crafted the installation in the clothes closet. Underhill admires feminist art that portrays women as strong and confident, but she also wants to portray women as vulnerable and gentle, because “women are allowed to have more than one layer.”

Andrea Belmontes and Kelsha Spencer chuckled and acknowledged that they were the only two women of color featured in the art show. Spencer said that this left her feeling obligated to showcase black woman in her paintings, but her  focus,  on sexualization of the female body and lesbian relationships,  transcends race.

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Self portrait photo of Kelsha Spencer photographed and edited by Kelsha Spencer.

Moore said  she feared having a show  featuring only white artists. She concedes that  “Don’t Call Me Baby”,   was primarily white. However, she says, her feminism is intersectional and transclusive, and she’s working to connect with trans artists and artists of color.

In the backyard at Girl Gaze, people chatted about the Women’s March as they sipped complimentary pink grapefruit mimosas.  A woman bought a small print at the merchandise table and told the vender she was gifting it to her gynecologist, who really wanted to come but couldn’t make it.

Moore estimates that it will take about two weeks to clean all the pink wax from her house. However, Girl Gaze attendees hope the buzz around Neighborhood Cult Productions, and its  Fort Worth female-centric movement,  lasts much longer.

 

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