Brushstrokes celebrate women artists

By Assistant Arts & Culture Editor

Brightly colored paintings will hang on contrasting white walls while two women paint original creations on a third woman’s naked body. Coming from very different artistic backgrounds and drawing from their own female perspectives, these independent fine artists have come together to draw attention to the local artwork of women.

Curated by Charne Graham, Chicago native and managing editor of the blog “What Up Windy,” the SWAN Art Exhibit: Celebrating Women Artists will feature the work of five female artists at Ian Sherwin Gallery, 2649 W. North Ave., on April 12 at 7 p.m. Graphic designer Rachel Gadson; abstract fine artist Shani Crowe; fingernail artist Taccara

Spifster Sutton; tattoo professional and fine artist Katrina Jackson; and acrylic painter Morgan Bell are the featured artists. Jackson and Bell are expected to perform the aforementioned body painting session.

Graham said she organized the event to celebrate SWAN Day because she wanted to showcase her talented female artist friends after other outlets declined to showcase their works.

“I have so many friends who are talented and creative and I just wanted to have an outlet for them to display their work,” Graham said.

Organizations WomenArts andChicago’s Women In The Audience Supporting Women Artists Now initiative—both alliances that aim to create opportunities for female artists to show their work—established SWAN Day seven years ago. The holiday is now celebrated annually on March 29 in 23 countries, completing Women’s History Month. There have been more than 1,000 SWAN Day events worldwide since the day’s establishment, Graham said.

The participating female artists have stylistic differences, yet they all fall into the modern or abstract art category, Graham said. The works will consist mostly of paintings but will also include Gadson’s digital graphic design work and Spifster Sutton’s nail art, Gadson said. To add an element of surprise, the featured artists decided they would keep the details of the work they plan to display secret from each other and even the event curator until the day of the exhibit. Along with free drinks, there will also be a live disc jockey, Lex Luger, two singers and a spoken word artist accompanying the exhibit. The singers and spoken word artists will be surprise guests, Graham said. Graham said the body painting performance was chosen for the exhibit to demonstrate her friends’ artistic talent in a way that would highlight the beauty of the female form.

“It’s not everyday that women are recognized, not just professionally, but especially in the art world,” Gadson said. “[SWAN Day is] a good motivator [and] it brings women together. I think it’s great.”

Joan Erdman, professor of anthropology and cultural studies at Columbia and a working anthropologist herself, said the global adoption of SWAN Day shows widespread interest in recognizing the artwork of women.

“SWAN Day seems to me to be an opportunity for women artists, first of all, to be more known, and secondly, to group together to recognize in each other the strengths women artists have and to bring a kind of continuing attention to art made by women,” Erdman said.

Erdman said categorizing women’s art separately within the art world could detract from the significance of it in some people’s minds, adding that Chicago’s SWAN Day Art Exhibit and galleries for women’s art are intended to serve a noble purpose.

“[Because] it may be difficult for women to get their art shown and appreciated, having other places which are devoted [exclusively] to women’s art makes sense to me,” Erdman said. “It may be a temporary need, but it is something we need [now].”