'Girls, Girls, Girls' exhibit reclaims feminist art for generation that has come of age
"This is not a man-hate project – far from it. We love boys," organizers of the Girls, Girls, Girls exhibit felt compelled to explain. For far too long there has been too much gender stereotyping, even of what it means to have an all-female art exhibition.
Girls, Girls, Girls runs until April 20 at the Project 20 Artist Space and Gallery in Quezon City.
It features artworks by Ahvi Badon, Alyssa Suico, Angela Taguiang, Aya Ng, Carla Mendoza, Catcat Mendoza, CJ Hirro, Cuckoo Calsado, Eleanor Giron, Eva Yu, Jeona Zoleta, Jo Malinis, Kat Medina, Kay Aranzanso , Kim Perez, Krista Nogueras, Lee Paje, Lou Mendoza, Maisha dela Cruz, Martinna Mañalac, Monique Obligacion, Mercedes Cabral, Patti Lapus, Paola Germar, Raxenne Maniquiz, Sandina David , Soleil Ignacio, Syrel Lopez, Tabel Quijano, Tey Clamor, Valerie Luistro, Vehm Reyes, Veronica Peralejo, and Yas Doctor.
Artist Aya Ng organized and curated the exhibit. Explaining the theme, she told Rappler: "The most obvious was the depiction of sexuality and the use of female imagery. A few examples for this are the following: Monique Obligacion's 'Yes/No' is a fiberglass and resin lighting piece in the shape of the female body. Jeona Zoleta's '69 Things To Do To A Princess' is a Sharpie-colored bra piece with a little mermaid clip holding a polaroid image. Vehm Reyes' 'Onanism' shows a heavily textured erotic painting of a lip and vagina hybrid. Veronica Peralejo's 'Anticlimax' is a wall-mounted piece that shows a hanging ostrich egg held by yarn."
"Majority of the works showed a state of being, an expression of an emotion, and a piece of their mind," Ng explained. "A few examples for this are the following: Martinna Manalac's eye-catching graphic print of 'Big Sisters,' Tabel Quijano's colorful drawing on paper titled 'Neruda's Piece of Mind,' Kat Medina's 'Loose' oil on paper painting, and Lee Paje's 'Fabricate III' oil on copper with glass sculpture."
Ng added, "Inspired by the environment or the feeling of escape are works by the following artists: Valerie Luistro's 'Portal' is a gas-fired stoneware piece that invites you to look in. Yas Doctor's 'To End Restraint' depicts a dark watercolor painting of a girl looking out at the horizon. Paola Germar's 'I Need Space' shows an eye-catching heart-shaped oil on wood painting of a skeleton astronaut in outer space."
As strident and striking as the artworks are, they are also inclusive and sublime. Men enjoyed the exhibit just as much. The works provoked much discussion among viewers at the exhibit opening on March 31 – the last day of Women's Month – and provoked even further introspection among art lovers well after they had left the art spaces.
Even this event's title turns a sexist trope on its head. From the 1962 Hawaiian beach comedy about a love triangle starring Elvis Presley, to the 1987 glam rock anthem by Mötley Crüe where the boys sang "Dance for me, I'll keep you overemployed," to the 2001 Jay Z rap song where he brags about that "Spanish chick, French chick, Indian and black," to the late vaudeville cum television variety host German Moreno's unforgettably mispronounced come-on to audiences ("Gels, gels, gels!"), men have long defined what the phrase means. No longer.
"'Girls, girls, girls' is a term commonly associated with objectifying women but we want to change the way that is perceived. We want to show that these women have a lot to offer. Their beauty not only lies on the physical but with the strength of their mind, heart, and talent," said Ng.
"We hope that our event can start a dialogue on gender equality and break the mean girl stereotype that media created when it comes to all girl groups. In Girls, Girls, Girls, we believe that all-female collectives are important and we want to [shed] light not only on our group but also other all female collectives such as Grrrl Gang Manila, Heresy, Luad Collective, et cetera."
The artists themselves provided insight and context:
"The work I made for Girls, Girls, Girls, is titled 'Turning Away from the Bull.' It is a self-portrait. An image of me turning away from the past and taking hold of my new life and growing," explained Eleanor Giron, 26, visual artist and sometimes art instructor.
"I wanted the piece to be a study on the beauty of what I think is my version of an idealized woman. It is not representative of all body types and that is my hurdle right now. It is about the beauty of the curves, and the flow and fluidity of the female body. As such, it may be interpreted as something homoerotic which was not intended but nevertheless is present. Pencil allows me to illustrate with great flexibility, and it has always been my roots. 'Sirens' was made specifically for the exhibit," revealed Kay Aranzanso, 26, a visual artist and graphic designer from And A Half Design Studios.
"My sculpture entitled 'Mayari' presents a form of a breast dome (black and white glaze) with 3 satellite breasts. My work is inspired by Mayari. She is the goddess of combat, war, revolution, hunt, weaponry, beauty, strength, moon, and night. In a Kapampangan myth, Bathala died without leaving a will and Apolaki and Mayari fought over who would rule the earth. Apolaki wanted to rule the earth alone while Mayari insisted on equal rights. The two fought out the conflict with bamboo clubs until Mayari lost an eye. After Apolaki saw what he had done, he agreed to rule the earth together but at different times," said Krista Nogueras, 29, who graduated Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines and studied ceramics at the UPCFA Ceramics Studio.
"'Kanlungan' is a stylized short film about a woman's search for an ocean in a desert. The film was an offspring of the artist's grief after her father's passing, late in 2007. It was a visual metaphor of her life and death quandary at that time," shared Lou Mendoza, 24, filmmaker and special effects makeup artist.
Girls, Girls, Girls could become a series, according to Ng. "We definitely want to make this into an annual event and we wish to collaborate with more female artists and groups in the future. Some of the girls suggested we include performance art, music, dance, and video installations so that's something that we could explore for next year." – Rappler.com
Writer, graphic designer, and business owner Rome Jorge is passionate about the arts. He is a former editor-in-chief of asianTraveler Magazine and lifestyle editor of The Manila Times, and a writer for MEGA and Lifestyle Asia Magazines. He covered terror attacks, military mutinies, and mass demonstrations as well as reproductive health, gender equality, climate change, HIV/AIDS, and other important issues. Rome Jorge is also the proprietor of Strawberry Jams Music Studio.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story earlier cited artist Lou Mendoza's age as 29 and misidentified the citation on one of her pieces. Martinna Mañalac's work is called "Big Sisters." This has been corrected.