Growing Past the Gallery: Observations on Femme Fatale Visual Arts

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Work by Penny.Lane

[Written by Julia Hegele (she/her)]

[Image Credits: Emily Millar (she/her)]

Tucked into a warmly lit cement block in Merchant City, the work of female artists hangs on wooden frames. Windows filter in a fickle light from the alley outside, blocked cozily by bright interpretations on a form and the bodies of excited observers. From cross stitch to poetry to abstract collage, women with ranges of medium and background have lent their work for appreciation and consideration. Business cards and Instagram handles are gathered tactfully at the edges of each exhibit, I jot the clever puns and catchy quips down to follow once I’m in a place with a strong WiFi connection so I can support these women and their work. This is important, because that really is the point of this exhibition, curated by and in support of up-and-coming female artists. But, as celebratory and empowering as events like this exhibition are, they are laurels on archaic columns of validity.

Work by Marilena Vlachopoulou

Art has become intrinsically bound to commerce and thus to capitalism, with the most vulnerable of artists having to rely wholly on what sells rather than their initial inspiration. Colorful stickers with quippy feminist slogans are adorable and easy to appreciate, but they also supply the current “pretty woke” market with more pastel fodder. This is in no way to say that the exhibition organised by Femme Fatale is a cultural kill zone, on the contrary, the art on show was incredibly personal and tangibly meaningful. You could feel the passion and love that these women had put into their work. Work that deserves better than to be appraised and marketed in a gallery form. By encouraging patrons to follow a cycle of looking, following, and buying, curators encourage a cultural binary filled entirely by patriarchal conceptions of worth and value. The standard of artistic success shouldn’t be the number of followers or average income but, unfortunately, it is. Struggling demographics of artists need to play the game by the current set of rules to eventually change them, a task that is desperately needed: women only make up 5% of modern art exhibits and are constantly challenged by a daunting threshold of accessibility in terms of sourcing artistic space, gallery time, and continuity commission. Despite the equality and worldliness encouraged by the medium of art, it remains an exclusionary environment that demands structure and linear success, regardless of who this form may alienate.

Emily Millar in front of her work

My hope is that the talented women who offered their art for our appreciation are undercover agents, biding their time until they’ve achieved stability and success so they can overhaul how their audiences value art and creativity as a whole, because anyone in that exhibit could tell you that they’re at the promising door of success already. The observers standing in that little grey block may not have been spending thousands of pounds on a single painting, but the respect and excitement radiating through the space was electric. Alongside their powerful artistic acomplishments, the women of Femme Fatale created something too wholesome and warm for the clinical air of a gallery to ever replicate: a community. Once free of the tired, vulnerable form of the gallery, creators will be able to be valued not by how well they can be marketed, but by how well they can foster emotional and societal growth. Creativity will no longer be something to gawk at but something to collaborate in, to express emotionally and to support with physical appreciation. Art by and for the disenfranchised should be disseminated through platforms that everyone can stand on, but until that time make sure to like, follow, and buy.

Follow Femme Fatale’s work instagram: @femmefatalevisualarts

Support the artists:
Half Sitch Bitch
@calderwoodillustrations – Emily Calderwood
@raissa_ pardini


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