SHE___. Exhibition: the Female Artists of Edinburgh

  • tabitha carless-frost

Tabby Carless Frost writes a review of SHE___., an Edinburgh-based exhibition pioneered by Eva Stanistreet, Geraldine Sawyer, Isabella Avery, Rebecca Nipps and Tabby herself (pictured from left to right) to “create a space where art could be accessible to all ages, genders, and demographics.”

In 2017, female artists accounted for just 4% of the National Gallery of Scotland’s collection, and less than a quarter of London’s major commercial solo shows were centred on a female artist. Women make up 51% of the population, so chances are you know a woman, you might even be one. However, women are still severely underrepresented in nearly all cultural and economic areas. As a protest against the blatant inequality of the mainstream art market, the SHE___. collective has invited a diverse range of artists, writers and creatives to come together to consider and celebrate the women that inspire them.
The exhibition officially opened to the public on Tuesday evening at the Whitespace gallery and runs until late on the 30th. After whittling down the large pool of around fifty submissions, the show selected works by fourteen artists to physically exhibit. The rest of the submissions will be accessible on the SHE___. website’s online gallery. The opening night was well attended by students, non-students, and professionals alike, reiterating the diverse and wide-reaching scope the exhibition aspired towards.
SHE___. came about through the desire to curate an exhibition that didn’t conform to university elitism, to create a space where art could be accessible to all ages, genders, and demographics. The exhibition ethos centred on rejecting the unfamiliar art terminology that often alienates viewers, and instead providing a range of work that visitors could make a personal connection to. The collective aimed to produce simple, clear curation and interpretive guidance that would enrich the audience’s perception and enjoyment, without being excluding or patronising.
From colleagues to friends, from family to fictional figures, inspiring women are at the heart of each of the exhibited works and the show intends to celebrate the many diverse ways in which women empower and enrich the lives of us all. The artists included in the exhibition explore a wide array of themes, ranging from the personal to the historical and beyond. The traditional position of women in the arts is explored through inverting the objectification of the female nude, by reconsidering the concept of the goddess, and through mapping the repression of the un-named female artisans of the textile industry. The female capacity to create life, grow and nurture future generations is explored through simple celebrations of portraits of mothers and grandmothers, through the stories and values maternal figures pass down and the invaluable power of female friendship and community. The exhibition also draws attention to the fluidity of the concept of femininity and what it means to be a woman. Works pay homage to the trans experience, portraying a nuanced consideration of societal issues of identity whilst celebrating, through a form of collaboration, the figure of the transgender father.
The role of women is of the utmost value to our history and cultural present; women are so much more than just a muse for the male gaze. SHE___. is proud to support and encourage women artists and unconventional female subjects who are often ignored by art history. The collective hopes this exhibition will be the first of many events that can inspire change and act as a platform to celebrate and honour everyday women for who they are. All artworks submitted will be made available on the online gallery as well as a time lapse rendering of the opening evening. SHE___. is making plans for the future and extends a warm invitation to any groups, societies and individuals who feel that SHE___. speaks to them and would like to get involved in the next instalment.