Difficult Women Uplifted

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"Well-behaved women seldom make history," wrote Laurel Thatcher Ulrich once in a scholarly article about Puritan funeral services. Because the phrase resonated so well with people who believed it to be true, it ended up everywhere -- on mugs, greeting cards, T-shirts and even as tattoos. But rather than using it as a general endorsement for all misdeeds of the X chromosomes, the expression can actually inspire more creative pursuits for those bent on rebellion.

It's no surprise that women still fend off absurd arguments that question their abilities and capabilities -- everything from Georg Baselitz making worldwide headlines for holding the opinion that women can't paint to Christopher Hitchens' inability to find any woman funny; therefore meditating via long form on the evolution psychology of the matter.

It's hard to think of two more "difficult women" than Patty and Selma of The Simpsons. - COURTESY OF ERIN K DREW
  • Courtesy of Erin K Drew
  • It's hard to think of two more "difficult women" than Patty and Selma of The Simpsons.

And so when I see artist Erin K Drew make puffy paint versions of patron saints of unrulinessand difficultness, Patty and Selma Bouvier, on a sports bra as part of the next installment of Difficult Women, I know that something good is going on.

Drew says that puff paint is sloppy and childlike, but it's surprisingly versatile.The sculpture graduate of Herron School of Art says, "The decision to apply it to sports bras was kind of unconscious, but lends itself to lots of 'support' jokes. I've really enjoyed painting power tools and tiny portraits of Miss Piggy and Divine on them."

The pop-up show is being organized by Drew and Lisa Berlin (Hen and General Public Collective member) as a fundraising effort to bring Russian-born musician and artist Mary Ocher to headline the next Difficult Women event.

"We believe it is important to bring her to Indy, so we're hoping to start this fund to pay her and other artists," says Drew.

The first Difficult Women show occurred in April of this year. It included Forced into Femininity from Chicago, which features Jail Flanagan whose work is "an attempt at an exorcism of forces of misogyny, transphobia, retail culture, assault and abuse and beauty standards. It's an attempt to use dreamlike states and imagery to muddle the aesthetics of good taste, art courtesy, etc."

It also included Copy/Culture and a performance from Hen. More than a hundred people RSVP'd to the event, indicating that Indy can support this type of gathering without the need for underwire.

One might wonder why they choose to communicate such charged topics -- often painful and sensitive -- humorously by ornamenting a woman's undergarment with beloved pop culture iconography from childhood.

Difficult Women is being organized, in part, to bring Mary Ocher to Indianapolis. - COURTESY OF ERIN K DREW
  • Courtesy of Erin K Drew
  • Difficult Women is being organized, in part, to bring Mary Ocher to Indianapolis.

"In my opinion, critical perspectives have always been best when they're related playfully, even the angry or the aggressive sails better when it's artfully and playfully presented," says Berlin. "However the Difficult Women players have been pretty life-hard f---king serious, so the leg up we have on child's play is it's informed and we mean it," she adds.

It's clear that this is a good venue to let the guard down and be disarmed. Women are able to be funny and laugh about all these things -- even those that hurt. There's no need for prim and proper pretense to go see this art show.
The Difficult Women pop-up event will challenge your perspectives on gender norms this Saturday, Aug. 22 at General Public Collective at 7 p.m.

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