Arts & Culture

Meet the ‘Nasty Women’ artists trying to topple the patriarchy before Trump’s inauguration

Meet the 'Nasty Women' artists trying to topple the patriarchy before Trump's inauguration
They don’t want you to be nasty. via IG user @bir_gi, edited by Sam Corbin

The nation’s artists have gradually been picking themselves back up since the election, aware that they’ve got real work to do in a Trump presidency — but the nation’s women artists are feeling especially nasty. And in NYC, a group of Brooklyn-based women have gone so far as to create a “Nasty Women” arts initiative, “calling all Nasty Women artists” for a group exhibition right here in New York City with the hopes of inspiring similar exhibitions in cities around the world.

Armed with the label Donald Trump once used to insult Hillary Clinton during debate season, the initiative, co-founded by Bushwick ceramics artist Roxanne Jackson and Crown Heights-based curator Jessamyn Fiore, hopes “to demonstrate solidarity among artists who identify with being a Nasty Woman in the face of threats to roll back women’s rights, individual rights, and abortion rights.”

Brokelyn chatted with Jackson about the show’s inception, what exactly makes a “Nasty Woman” artist, and the growing need for political art leading up to a Trump presidency.

“It’s a way to bring people together,” Jackson told Brokelyn. “To let people know that we’re not gonna forget about this, we’re not gonna stop protesting, this is not OK, we don’t agree.”


Credit: Carolina Sandretto
Credit: Carolina Sandretto

The idea for Jackson and Fiore’s show first caught the attention of their own female-identified creative circles a few days after the election, when Jackson posted a call to arms on her Facebook page: “Hello female artists/curators! Lets organize a NASTY WOMEN group show!!! Who’s interested???”

The post drew enough reactions and responses to inspire a website for the project, which was designed by San Diego-based artist Barbara Smith. Fiore is on the curatorial board of the Knockdown Center, an arts venue in Maspeth, Queens, and coordinated with the venue to make the show happen there in January a few days before Trump’s inauguration.

“There’s not just an interest in it but a need,” Jackson told us. “To have a voice, to stand against upcoming oppressors in this visual art format.” 

Slated for a three-day installation at the Knockdown between Jan. 12 – 15, 2017, the show will consist of 10 ft. tall wooden letters spelling out N-A-S-T-Y  W-O-M-E-N, with contributors’ artworks hung on a durable mesh plastic material skinned around the letters.

“It’s more of a dramatic installation, the iteration at the Knockdown Center,” Jackson said, “but we’re talking with international venues to do their own version of the show.”

As of today, a few “Nasty Women” shows have already been scheduled at galleries in a few other cities — among them a female-owned gallery in Brussels, the Mathilde Hatzenberger Gallery — and the organizers are in talks with another gallery in Glasgow. American arts venues have also reached out to the Nasty Women team from swing and red-leaning states like Arkansas and Ohio.


Jackson is definitely a nasty woman. Credit: Ryan Frank, via FB
Jackson is definitely a nasty woman. Credit: Ryan Frank, via FB

Since it will also serve as a fundraiser to support organizations defending women’s rights and act “as a platform for organization before the Trump Presidential Inauguration,” the show aims to represent creative voices from all around the world in solidarity. But with over 100 submissions already — and counting — since the website’s creation last week, those wooden letters are looking pretty crammed.

Jackson told us the show “won’t turn anyone anyway,” but emphasized that the open call for submissions from “all Nasty Women artists” will have to be subject to “some vetting” from the curatorial team, which includes Fiore and another BK-based curatorial advisor, Angel Bellaran. There’s also the expectation that those applying will self-edit with regards to the Nasty Woman label.

“We basically overall agreed that a person will self-edit, what [Nasty Woman] means for them,” Jackson said. “We are positing this [as] female artists and female identified-artists, and anyone who identifies as a Nasty Woman.”

This Nasty Women show certainly isn’t the first creative response to crop up since Trump’s win, nor is it the only iteration of feminine anger out there (even this writer tried her hand at drawing blood, albeit with puns): There’s an “Angry Women” art show coming to TriBeCa in January, too.

Adhering to similar principles of inclusion, “Angry Women” curator Indira Cesarine told Bedford & Bowery that “it was important to open up [her] particular exhibit to female artists from all over the country [..] to promote solidarity, diversity and gain insight of a wider selection of artists on the subject.” 

It is interesting to note that both Cesarine’s ‘Angry Women’ and this ‘Nasty Women’ show are slated for mid-January, just before Trump’s inauguration. Inklings of a last-minute coup? At the very least, it’s an indication of a profound hope that women’s voices will resonate with those coming into power on Inauguration Day — and, perhaps, be acted upon.

With a Women’s March on Washington planned for the Saturday following the inauguration, Trump’s ascension to the White House will certainly be bookended by reactions from a sizable percentage of women in this nation who refuse to stay silent. Forget the old saying about “not going down without a fight” — Jackson and her cohorts are determined not to go down at all.

We definitely have four years to do this show,” she said. 

Get nasty on Twitter: @ahoysamantha

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