PINK-COLLARED, PINK-FRAMED Tariqa Waters made this painting of slave-owning garbage president Andrew Jackson. She explained she was inspired by hipster Seattle shops and restaurants decorated period. If this is how we're going to address history, then this is how I'm going to address history. Because if I dress period-specific, yall are gonna have a problem with it, she said. Im gonna look like Im gonna go pick cotton. The painting is at her Pioneer Square gallery-in-her-stairwell, Martyr Sauce.
  • Courtesy of the artist
  • PINK-COLLARED, PINK-FRAMED Tariqa Waters made this painting of slave-owning garbage president Andrew Jackson. She explained she was inspired by hipster Seattle shops and restaurants decorated "period." "If this is how we're going to address history, then this is how I'm going to address history. Because if I dress period-specific, y'all are gonna have a problem with it," she said. "I'm gonna look like I'm gonna go pick cotton." The painting is at her Pioneer Square gallery-in-her-stairwell, Martyr Sauce.

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The Seattle Women's Convention held Thursday night was epic. It was astoundingly well-attended, drawing artists old and young, from gilded to tough backgrounds, classical realist painters to performance artists—and almost every woman in attendance spoke at some point. We're talking more than a hundred women.

Young artists spoke of being afraid to sign their first names to their works for fear of being immediately categorized as a "woman artist." Older artists gave encouragement, asked-for advice and life stories. An original Guerrilla Grrl took the opportunity to finally come out of the closet. Her name is Ann Leda Shapiro, and she lives on Vashon.

Waters with her big old painting, which presided over the Seattle Womens Convention at the Hedreen Gallery on Thursday.
  • JG
  • Waters with her big old painting, which presided over the Seattle Women's Convention at the Hedreen Gallery on Thursday.
The event was organized by Amanda Manitach, curator at the Hedreen Gallery where it was held, and painter Joey Veltkamp, who established the rule that just for that night, men were to listen rather than talk. (He hung a sign right on the door.) It was set up so that Susie Lee (Skyping in), Susanna Bluhm, and I were the kickoff panelists and moderators, but we did not by any means do the majority of the talking. The conversation crisscrossed the room so entirely that halfway through, the group decided to rearrange the chairs into a giant oval where everybody faced each other.

Among the subjects of conversation: the debate over labels versus freedom and context; the different politics in different parts of the art world (the classical realist world versus the museum world, for instance); how women of color and white women often approach feminism differently (feeling part of it, not feeling part of it); how to make feminism into a creative project of reimagining gender and sexuality; the overconfidence of male art students and the underconfidence of female art students; painting big; gender and the pseudonymous internet; the way perfectionism separates women from each other and themselves; which works of art you've seen recently that have made you able to see more value and depth in the women around you; whether there's more pressure to make art that's ambiguous in subject matter or pointedly about "women's issues"; whether women are "allowed" to critique sexism in their lives if they don't address it directly in their works; the way that men see themselves as simply "the universal human subject."

A particularly honest section of the night happened when women described their differing direct experiences with patriarchy, varying from being raised in religious seclusion in an abusive patriarchal household to an acclaimed artist and MFA professor advising his female students not to have boyfriends or husbands if they want to be serious while not similarly advising his male students.

Several questions and ideas were posed by women beforehand, and those suggestions were posted on the walls of the Hedreen in advance, as in Davida Ingram's, "If you could wave a magic wand and turn any artist into an avowed feminist, who would you pick? And why?"

The night lasted three hours but somehow passed quickly. It wasn't just more rehashed talk. By the end, I felt like I actually knew these women, and the art being made every day in this city, more deeply. I have to call that out, because it's rare. Thanks to everyone who was there, and to Manitach and Veltkamp for organizing.

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Among the artists in attendance were Crystal Barbre, Davida Ingram, Sherry Markovitz, Tariqa Waters, Sharon Arnold, Deborah Lawrence, Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Cristin Miller, Kathy Liao, Kelly Lyles, Tracy Boyd, Grace Weston, Ellie Dicola, Anne Blackburn, and Kate Protage. Look them up, check out their work (and please leave any other names and links in comments, as I'm missing a ton). Melissa Monosmith was also present; she has just taken over from her husband at LTD. Gallery on Capitol Hill.

To follow the future activities of the Seattle Women's Convention, you can join the Facebook group.

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