By MIKE CHAIKEN
The event is called Support Women Artists Now Day or SWAN Day.
According to the website of the national organization WomenArts.org, the event – which will be held locally on March 5—“is an international holiday designed to showcase the power and diversity of women’s creativity.”
The event begs the question, are women artists treated differently than men artists? According to some of the artists participating in the Connecticut event on Saturday (which is organized by Bristol ex-pat Jennifer Hill, who also will perform as Murderess Chanteus), the answer is more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”
Jenn Jacobs, who is showcasing her fashion line Bad Bunny at SWAN Day at Trinity-on-Main in New Britain, said, “Honestly, I’ve encountered more gender bias when I was a singer… Everyone always assumed I was someone’s girlfriend. Then people would doubt my ability to help lug equipment.”
“And even within the band, which was all men, I had trouble getting my voice heard, ironic given I was a singer,” said Jenn. “Not all the guys were bad, just a few bad apples.”
“As far as art,” said Jenn, who is a visual artist as well, “things may be changing a little more quickly in that arena for gender equality but there are still issues. One being on the education level.”
“As a child,” said Jenn, “I learned of a myriad of famous male artists, such as the great masters— and few female artists… I had little artistic influence from women as a child, besides the women I personally knew. I looked up to lots of male artists. It didn’t necessarily faze me then, I just thought that’s the way things were. But it’s not. There were lots of wonderful female artists before 1850, and I think that is only just now starting to be explored.”
“As far as being a female artist myself in the present day, I haven’t had anyone necessarily question my ability. But I do believe traditional gender roles are still things female artists have to overcome. I know I’ve struggled with it and feel it may have even stunted my career,” said Jenn.
Julie Kathryn of I Am Snow Angel, one of the musical guests Saturday, said being a woman artist has not necessarily been a hardship for her. “People are generally very supportive and give me a lot of respect. For the most part, I feel like musicians and producers treat me as an equal.”
“Still,” she continued, “there have been times I’ve been underestimated, for sure. For example, when I’ve explained that I produce and engineer my own material, I’ve sometimes still been asked ‘but who makes your tracks for you?’”
Times are changing, said Julie. “Fortunately, women in music — all areas of music, including production — are gaining a lot more visibility now, so these gender biases are lessening.”
Ebony Amber , who is serving as one of the hostesses and is an artist and fashion designer in her own right, said: “I grew up in a family full of creative people who in turn had many creative friends. Both of my parents were art teachers and my father curated shows in New Jersey and New York. I never saw any sexism within this community. By the time I was a 10, I was submitting work and getting in to art shows that were generally filled with work from both genders.”
Although the phrases male artist and female artist is part of the vernacular—hence Support Women Artists Now—- Jacobs, Amber, and I Am Snow Angel do not really see that creativity itself has a gender.
Julie said: “I don’t really think there is a specific ‘male’ or ‘female’ approach to making art. I do think that men and women are socialized to communicate differently, which, in turn affects the artistic process, especially in collaborative projects.”
“Growing up, females are often taught to keep the peace and ‘people please,’ while males are encouraged to be more direct. So I think these differences in communication are largely cultural— rather than innate. When it comes to making music, though, there are so many different approaches and strategies; I don’t these are specifically tied to gender,” said Julie.
Amber said: “I think women and men create artwork based on feelings more so then gender. It can be said that men and women deal with their feelings differently and that may come out in certain ways during their creative process but I have seen some of the most beautiful and gentle artwork created by the hands of a man and the most dramatically orchestrated painting of a war reenactment done by a women.”
“In the ‘80s and ‘90s when I was growing up, women were extremely powerful within the art community. You had some of the greats such as Ella Naper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cindy Sherman and many many more. Women were expressing themselves through music, filmmaking, and all avenues of art during my lifetime. I have only seen this spectrum grow,” said Amber.
Jacobs said: “I think traditionally, creativity has been portrayed to have gender… In reality, I don’t think creativity has a gender. I think each artist’s experience certainly influences them, and it would be natural for certain gender related topics to come out. But I think simply being one gender or another doesn’t change one’s approach.”
SWAN Day CT will be held at Trinity-on-Main, 69 Main St., New Britain on Saturday, March 5. Doors open at 5:15 p.m. and show time is 5:45 p.m.
Ebony Amber of Ebony Amber Cosplay and Darcy Anderson-Abbott will be hosting. Musical performers are: Them Damn Hamiltons, J Cherry, Chaser 8, Post Modern Panic, Dina Brass, Canyon, The Girls From Ruby Falls, I Am Snow Angel, Murderous Chanteuse, Someone You Can X-ray, Gracie Day, Nicki Mathis, Nan Roy, That Virginia, and Kiersten Seiser. Burlesque performers are: Victoria Van Layer, Mistress Leona Star, Vivienne LaFlamme, Vanil LaFrappe, and Hula Hooper Danielle Duncan. Blissninja Shamenpunk and Bad Bunny will showcase their fashion designs and Ebony Amber Parish will show her costume design collection. Kerry Kennedy will paint live.
Tickets are $25 and will be available at the door.
For more information, look for SWAN Day CT on Facebook.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.
By MIKE CHAIKEN