June 26, 2019 | 82° F

DRC Creativity House showcases femme-inspired works

After a year of creating artwork based on female empowerment, the artistic ability of students from the  Global Village is now on featured in the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series.

Located in the lobby of the Douglass Library, the vibrant colors and images bring life to mundane study breaks on rainy April afternoons.

The artwork, made by 14 Rutgers students, was completed in the Women, Gender, and Creativity House program, a Living Learning Community course that examines topics of gender, sexuality and creativity of women in the arts.

Co-curated by Global Village instructor Natalia Yovane and Institute for Women’s Leadership scholar and School of Arts and Sciences senior Deborah Lee, the exhibition displays the self-portraits, sculptures and writing created by the students throughout the course of the program, all centered around themes of female identity, beauty and creative expression.

“The mission of this exhibit was to encourage others, especially young women, to creatively express themselves through art to convey important messages, and to have fun while doing it,” Lee said. “Art can be a strong form of empowerment, and all of the students were able to feel beautiful and powerful producing these works of art and sharing it with other students.”

Expressed through several mediums and multiple projects, the student artists defined their own ideas of what it means to be a strong woman.

In a mixed media project, students created collages with images, words and designs that portrayed their personal visions of a "Divine Feminine," whether it be magazine cut-outs of feminist activist Malala Yousafzai or images of traditional femininity like makeup and lingerie. The artists also composed collages inspired by women they considered to be female idols, ranging from the archaic Greek poet Sappho to the modern-day musician Lauryn Hill.

Inspired by ancient figurines from the Upper Paleolithic period, The Venus Sculpture project mirrored representations of the female body that can be found throughout art history. Made with clay, the artists sculpted women with small heads and exaggerated female body parts such as wide hips and breasts, techniques that are believed to have symbolized fertility and femininity.

The class was not limited to traditional forms of art, as artists also wrote poems and practiced performance art. Students were assigned to design a mask and to then create a performance art video that would tell the story of the individual the mask represented and the soul hidden underneath.

Students also channeled their inner child and turned typical kindergarten art into sophisticated work, proving you’re never too old to color. Picked from their favorite page of a Shakti coloring book, artists used bright colors and vivid designs to bring life to famous images of empowering Hindu goddesses.

“Our instructor Natalia put an emphasis on spiritual empowerment and had us think about women as more of a spiritual figure rather than just a physical, which is why we focused a lot on goddesses,” said Chelsea Lebron, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore involved in the project. “It was interesting to study the different images different cultures have of women, to focus on a different idea of womanhood separate from today’s current beauty standards, and to get in touch with the person inside.”

The artists drew further inspiration from the goddesses featured in the coloring books for their self-portraits. Shot and styled by Vogue stylist Andre Johnson, the artists reinvented images of goddesses to fit their personal standards of beauty and strength.

Overall, the installation of the various projects exhibits the importance of Living Learning Communities at Rutgers.

“The Global Village house really allowed a very different group of people to come together and create something we all could relate to,” Lebron said. “It’s nice to know that there’s a place Rutgers students can go to if they have an interest in creating art, and it gave us an opportunity to showcase work we’re passionate about.”

Opened on April 19, the exhibition opened and will be on display until May 1 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Free of charge and located conveniently in the Douglass Library, every Rutgers student can be inspired by the personal and powerful works of art.

Clarissa Gordon

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