Art students examine feminism in ‘Troubling the Archive’

When four ASU Art School graduate students realized they shared an interest in feminism, they began a collective effort to develop an exhibit that explores their own representations and the theory of feminist art.

“Troubling the Archive” was the result of this collaboration and is presented at ASU’s Step Gallery from March 5–16. The exhibit features a wide variety of mediums and techniques, including photography, mixed media and printmaking.

Feminism, the theory of political, economic and social equality for both sexes, is often represented in forms of art and media. “Troubling the Archive” highlights the history of feminist activism, said photography graduate student Rosalind Shipley.

“I became aware that there were other young women here in the grad program who consider themselves feminists and consider their art feminist,” Shipley said. “I thought, ‘What a great opportunity to have a show,’ and we all decided to do it.”

Shipley’s photography for the exhibit explores and places the archive of Internet pornography in a different context, taking a look at the complicated actions portrayed and pairing them with complicated words.

“I wanted look at something that was sort of hidden and is taboo in society and make a statement to young women, ‘You can think about this action, you can think about what this means,’” Shipley said.

Photography graduate student Malena Barnhart also contributed photography to the exhibit. Some of the pieces also featured human hair, which printmaking graduate student Rachel Nore and intermedia graduate student Aimee León looked at in each of their pieces. On the body, hair is a form of beauty, but once shaved off, it becomes almost grotesque, León said.

“I’m examining how social constructs of hair are formed and what that means,” she said. “Hair is this aesthetic, sexual object, but once removed from the body, it becomes this disgusting thing.”

León’s pieces also look at marketing and the way women are targeted by the consumer products industry. She is forming a feminist collective this summer that will become a club through the ASU Art School. Students and faculty of all ages, genders and academic disciplines are invited to become part of the feminist cooperative.

León hopes to bring in guest speakers and create dialog workshops for the club to participate in as part of an effort to raise interest in feminism theory and art at ASU.

“We’re kind of getting feminism and what that means back on the map,” she said.

“There hasn’t been a lot of that beyond the women’s study department. We want to re-examine feminism and what it means with new generations today.”

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