“When a storm subsides, the air is washed clean of whatever particulate matter has been obscuring the view, and you can often see farther and more sharply than at any other time. When this storm clears, we may, as do people who have survived a serious illness or accident, see where we were and where we should go in a new light. We may feel free to pursue change in ways that seemed impossible while the ice of the status quo was locked up. We may have a profoundly different sense of ourselves, our communities, our systems of production and our future.”Rebecca Solnit
The visual representations of women in art and media have always left much to be desired, and women’s agency regarding self-representation continues to be suppressed: work by women artists makes up only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe.
Taking inspiration from Marian Wright Edelman’s famous quote “You cannot be what you cannot see” Sheroes was born in March 2018 with its first ever show “Highlighting Hidden Herstories”.
Soon after the exhibition came the realisation that what we had created was just the beginning of a much needed platform and safe space for women – both artists and visitors – to exchange views, share struggles and build on collective experiences through the arts, workshops and talks.
Sheroes has become an ongoing project that works around different themes to reflect upon the comparative lack of female role models in society. Sheroes-Revoluciones, a project designed to draw attention to violence against women, was about to open when the Covid-19 lockdown started, forcing the project to be suspended and together with the rest of the world to take a moment to pause and reflect. It was impossible to not think of the parallels that the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have created between the idea of the unknown sheroes and the uncountable stories and realities of women now strictly hidden and stacked “behind closed doors” or left unknown in the frontline.
The need to uncover these stories and create a space to reflect on the impact and risk that lockdown and isolation are having on women and artists has resulted in creating Sheroes in Quarantine – an online exhibition dedicated to highlighting women’s issues and roles during the Covid-19.
The current crisis has provided us with time to re-think on how our society is structured and possibly reinvent the way we co-exist with one another. Creativity, activism and community foster these possibilities and invite the re-imagining of a society that works for all.
Sheroes in Quarantine wants to create a bridge between stories and lives in a time where humanity got silenced and felt like breaking up. Only community can facilitate the imagining of a more sustainable way of living, where nature, women and marginalised groups are not only considered in policy, but part of the decision-making. Covid-19 is proving that individualism is not the way to go forward and, as a response, many feminist collectives around the world are coming forward with alternatives to policies and governance proposals that are more community-centred.
The project showcases 14 women artists, mothers and activists and their respective herstories and reflections on topics such as Careers, Policies, Ecofeminism and Violence against women & girls and their value in times of crisis. The exhibition spans across multiple media from video to painting, comics to collages including a whole section, Writing Corner, dedicated to the many submitted pieces and poems to battle against a pandemic but mostly against the fragility of our mental health.
Many of the current gender inequality issues have been amplified during Covid-19, where 77% of the most high risk jobs have been covered by women, 60% of which are paid below minimum wage. Sheroes in Quarantine wants to reflect and call attention to those stories, with many exhibiting artists coming forward to highlight these realities and praise those women from “Invisible to Sheroes”.
The artworks represent honest messages of vulnerability and worries projected towards an unknown future and unfamiliar present, as well as appreciation of a nature the like of which has not been seen in years: “While the planet breathes and sighs its release, blue skies, wildlife released from the fat cats, hamster wheel”… even from our own private homes.
Our current society is characterised by overconsumption, excessive use of resources and increased pollution; one of the artists presents a PPE mask made of reclaimed plastic waste – a material of abundance – that questions the reasons for the shortage of protective equipment. We are being forced to reconsider how we live, rethink our habits and find alternative resources while getting back to a lower pace of life.
Art and craft hold a very long healing history that gets visibly amplified when shared and used within sisterhood and community settings. 2020 has been defined by some as “the year that never was”. Certainly a lot of things have been missing from our old lives and many of us have been experiencing loss to various and different degrees, but this year could also be defined by the things that it has brought to the fore: Community, nature and a greater sense of awareness towards each other and the world.
About the authors:
Lon-art Creative is an arts organisation that offers a platform for everyone to create, collaborate and reflect upon social issues through the arts. With a particular focus on women, we organise events to represent those less-heard voices in our society and promote critical thinking. Follow them on Instagram here.
Sheroes is a collaborative project by Lon-art Creative that brings together UK and international artists, feminist organisations, change-makers and the general public. Reflecting upon the comparative lack of female role models in society, Sheroes is a platform for the public and artists to share hidden herstories through visual art, workshops and talks. Their current project, Sheroes in Quarantine, is an online exhibition dedicated to highlighting women’s issues and roles during the Covid-19 crisis. You can visit it here. Follow the project on Instagram here.