Arts & Culture

August 26, 2014

Anger over birth control decision spurs Final Friday art show

‘Our Lady Show’ brings together 40 female artists who explore issues important to women.

Anger over a U.S. Supreme Court decision has spurred action in the form of an art show. In June, the justices ruled that “closely held” companies like Hobby Lobby do not have to provide contraceptive coverage to their workers if it conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs. That didn’t sit well with artist Jaki McElroy, who took to Facebook to express her feelings.

“Those first few days, so many women were on Facebook posting. They were mad, they were vocal and very feisty,” she said. “It occurred to me that we hadn’t had an all-women art show for a long time. I decided to issue a challenge and see who would participate so that we could have a public conversation and make a statement visually about women and women’s issues. It was just going to be three of us initially, and then it turned into five, and then 10, and it kept growing. The more I posted about it, the more interest we had.”

As a result of her posts, 40 women have come together to exhibit works for the “Our Lady Show,” which will take place Friday at the Go Away Garage on Commerce Street. Each participating artist will show three to five works. Multiple genres and mediums will be represented, and there will also be poetry readings and live performances.

Melissa Slates, 33, says it was “baffling outrage and disbelief” that made her want to be part of the show.

“I needed a place to put that anger, and a way to positively work it out, and this show was one outlet to do so,” she said. “It’s important to do something tangible. That angry Facebook post won’t be anywhere to be found years from now, but this painting, it will be. It will be sparking a conversation between people. It’s a symbol for how I feel.”

Her painting is an acrylic rendition of a gagged Wonder Woman, with the Bill of Rights as the backdrop.

“I used the image of Wonder Woman as a symbol specifically because that is how I see women in this day and age. Today you have to almost be a superhero to juggle all of the responsibilities on your plate. We not only run the household and raise our families, but we also pursue higher education, all while working full-time jobs. And many women do this on their own.”

While issues surrounding contraception and reproductive health sparked the show, a broad range of issues that are important to women will be represented. For Rhonda Bunch-Davis, a self-described nontraditional student at Wichita State University who is working on her art degree, that includes matters of war and peace.

“One of the things that I’ve been thinking about a lot, especially with the Israeli-Gaza conflict going on, is the fact that I have children in the military,” she said. “I look at the pictures in the media and see so much war and destruction. In the middle of it, there are these children that are playing in the middle of death and destruction. This is the legacy that we are giving to our children. My pieces will revolve around that.”

Bunch-Davis’ watercolors depict children and explore the theme that every soldier in war is someone’s child. While the images are anti-war, Bunch-Davis stressed that they’re also meant to show support for the troops.

McElroy said that one of the most exciting aspects to the show is how it has connected women. Many are meeting each other for the first time. She hopes to make this an annual exhibit so that more women will feel empowered to flex their creative muscles.

Bunch-Davis likes that this is a woman-based show. “Women in particular tend to not express themselves verbally in words. I don’t always make strong statements verbally toward people, but I feel like when I’m at the canvas or at the paper, I can visually say things that I might not say in public,” Bunch-Davis said. “It’s a means of expression. It’s a purer form of communicating. It’s just a conversation between you and the canvas, and then that conversation gets transferred to the audience as they view it.”

If you go

‘Our Lady Show’

What: Final Friday art show featuring 40 female artists from Wichita and surrounding areas

When: 4-11 p.m. Friday

Where: The Go Away Garage, 508 S. Commerce

How much: Free

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