Feminist Art Friday Feature: Phoebe Wahl
This Feminist Art Friday we are taking a bit of a different approach to one of our favorite posts and featuring a contemporary artist you can actually connect with here on Tumblr. You may have seen her work floating around and widely reblogged across the site (including on this blog) and it is impossible not to fall in love with her whimsical folk-ey art.
Phoebe Wahl, a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design where she received a BFA in Illustration, now lives in the Pacific Northwest. She is also a contributor at Taproot Magazine where she recently illustrated their 2014 calendar.
We were lucky enough to get in touch with Phoebe about her art and feminism, and here is what she had to say:
Showing my work to the world, for me is like putting my diary on display. The images I create are deeply tied to my own experiences, and dreams for my future. I make art about body positivity because it’s what I personally need to hear. My “Practice Radical Self Love” piece was something I painted in my journal, originally. A mantra to repeat to myself. When I posted it on my blog and shared it with the world it was a pivotal moment, the moment where I decided to make a statement I wasn’t entirely sure I could stand behind. Because self-love so radical is hard work. A task that feels impossible. But trying is what we can strive for, and working to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves and others on our lifelong journeys of self-loving.
Our culture promotes body-shaming so viciously, that I think it’s important to begin to speak up and relate to one another about that shame so many of us have in common. The shame that is spoon-fed to us from such a tender age.
I myself hold onto the fear that it is somehow weak and anti-feminist to admit I want to change my body. I am afraid that wanting to lose weight makes me a tool to our misogynistic weight-obsessed culture. But simultaneously I invest just as heavily in the fear that if I don’t lose weight, I am not beautiful and desirable. There is no right and wrong way to be a woman, I think too often feminism is pigeon-holed as just one way of looking and acting. It is believing in equality, and being active and intentional in your own life choices. It is standing up for your self worth. People have told me that because much of my work portrays women in nurturing roles as mothers and lovers, or cooking in aprons and dresses it is anti-feminist and heteronormative. I reject this.
To say that domesticity is synonymous with submission is to dishonor the thousands of years worth of strong and independent women who have acted as homemakers, and the men and women who continue to passionately fill this role of their own volition.
To me there is nothing more sexist and anti-feminist than someone saying there is only one right way to be as a woman. As my mother often tells me “There are more ANDs than ORs in life”. I will wear a dress and makeup AND have hairy armpits. I will help support my family through my career AND be a nurturing, present parent. I will work to lose weight for my own comfort AND I will strive to love myself just as I am. I will sleep with whomever I chose AND reserve the right to say no.
I think it is time we as feminists say no to the cycles of shame and fear we allow ourselves to be tangled in, and stand up to support all people in making empowered and intentional choices rooted in love.
If you’re interested in learning more about Phoebe Wahl and her art, try the following resources: