Feminist Art Gives Middle Finger to Misogyny, Opens Tonight

Violet Overn Fraternity House.  Photo Courtesy of Northern California Women's Caucus for the ArtsViolet Overn Fraternity House. Photo Courtesy of Northern California Women's Caucus for the Arts

A golden Buddha sits cross-legged in front of a mold of the vagina of Japanese artist Rokudenashiko. In Japan, her genitalia themed works are considered obscene and in 2014 they landed her in jail for a week.   

But feminist, artist and San Francisco State University associate professor Tanya Augsburg said the vagina mold captures the essence of a dialogue that she, along with a roster of some 52 other artists, are hoping to create through the provocatively entitled exhibition “Fuck You in the Most Loving Way” that celebrates its opening reception Saturday at the Arc Gallery at 1246 Folsom St.

“That’s ‘Fuck You In the Most Loving Way,’” said Augsburg, about Rokudenashiko’s mold, entitled ‘Buddha Manko.’ “There’s nothing wrong with the vagina.”

The title of the exhibition stems from “the idea of how to respond to micro aggression, biases, discrimination in a positive way, rather than to escalate things,” said Augsburg, who is the show’s curator of featured artists.  The installation is about taking a defiant but nonetheless, loving, stance publicly.

Hosted by the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art, the national feminist art exhibition is meant to provide a platform for the participating artists to express their views on misogyny, sexism, abuse and discrimination across all media.

The exhibition pays homage to the 1972 Womanhouse exhibition – one of the first public feminist art exhibitions that highlighted women’s experiences in the home. That exhibition was hung in numerous rooms of a deserted Hollywood Mansion.

“It was open for a month, and thousands of people came. It really explored women’s roles in domestic spaces,” said Augsburg.  Earlier this year Augsburg was anticipating a different political climate. “From Womanhouse to the White House,” she and others thought. “In the summer we were anticipating that we would be celebrating the first woman to move into the White House.”

On the heels of a wildly sexist presidential election, the exhibition, then in its planning stages, took on a life of its own, said Augsburg. The artists’ responded to the crude discourse and male sexual entitlement that took center stage.

“We were also concerned with the normalization of misogynist discourse that Donald Trump heralded during the elections,” she said. “The direction of the exhibition changed and evolved given what was happening.”

Mission District visual artist Ester Fernandez ,one of the exhibition’s featured artists,  called the timing of the show critical.

“A show like this would be extremely important to get young people from my background to go to,” said Fernandez, who, adding that she was “really surprised at their response” to the election.

“So much shock, fear, anger, frustration was felt by the younger generation because they had never really experienced anything like this,” she said. “A lot of us have gone through all kinds of hell with different governments and presidents. We are more resilient  – we know this is not necessarily the end of the world.”

Hernandez said that the piece she will showcase in the exhibition is an assemblage of family photos to identify sexist values and traditions in her own history.

“This one particular piece is about giving a young woman a rolling pin at her bridal shower,” she said, adding that in her youth, the baking devices were given humorously to signify a woman’s new role as a wife. “It’s for you to make tortillas for your husband, which is sexist.”
“On the other hand, if things get troubled or there is a problem, you can use it to defend yourself,” she said with a chuckle.

Hernandez hopes that her art will inspire younger generations to speak out artistically against sexism and other issues that they are grappling with.

“Get pissed off, organize, but also get out there and sing, make art and make love,” she said.
The arts have always pulled us through.”
Fuck You In A Loving Way will celebrate its opening reception on December 17, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and run through January 21, 2017, at Arc Gallery at 1246 Folsom St.

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