“MissRepresentation Gives A Voice to Artistic Women of Color”
Classically white-centric imagery gets redesigned through a WOC lens in the upcoming group exhibition MissRepresentation: A Show Praising Women of Color, opening Saturday, December 10th at Junior High in Hollywood.
by Daniel Barron
The possibilities of the canvas are limited only by one’s pallet and imagination. But when it comes to color in Los Angeles art spaces, the outlook is often depressingly monochromatic. So observed Maritza Lugo when her work was featured as part of a group exhibition this past summer. The LA-based illustrator is full Latina, her Mom originating from El Salvador while her Dad from Puerto Rico, a trait that made her a conspicuous presence among a lineup composed mostly of white women.
This dissonance produced a discomfort she could not immediately articulate. “I felt a mix of emotions and couldn’t tie it down until a week later when it hit me: there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of diversity in whom contributed art,” she says. “I really felt like I was drowning in ‘white girl feelings.'”
Lugo’s art more than whispers, it has a socially-conscious snarl. She recently released a t-shirt that states “No more white girl feeling,” and has produced commissions for popular feminist publications such as HelloGiggles and Broadly. This past year her illustrations gained national attention when she collaborated with writer Danielle Supulveres on two sets of work promoting Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and STI checkups, which involved Disney princesses and superheroes, respectively.
In a time where media-propagated one-size-fits-all feminism distracts from a wider intersectionalist dialogue, the need for diverse voices matters. The idea of putting together an art show comprised entirely of women of color began to percolate in Lugo, but with no prior curating experience she presented the concept to prolific LA DJ and photographer Erika Paget. The two had become friend after Lugo’s work was featured in a Heathers-themed show that Paget assembled for Meltdown Comics in Hollywood. Lugo states that Paget’s response was an immediate “yes.”
“Erika is this incredible woman who wears a lot of hats. When I started really thinking about MissRepresentation as a reality, she was a no-brainer to contact. She’s the best first curating partner I could ever have asked for.” Paget and Lugo made plans right away, announcing open submissions for artists across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The name they settled on for the show was “MissRepresentation.” E-mails began to pour in.
Says Lugo: “I started getting emails from people who weren’t artists, but just women who wanted to thank me (and Erika) for putting on such a show. It wasn’t just one or two emails, it was by the handfuls. Those made me realize how much more important this show could be.”
It is estimated that over a hundred women of color across North America contacted the pair, before the final roster was narrowed down to just over forty. The artists that make up MissRepresentation have produced original oil and watercolor paintings, collage, illustration, and even a mix of sculpture, each following Lugo’s loose theme of subverting classically and societally white-centric imagery, reconceived through a WOC lens.
Lugo maintains modest expectations for the show’s impact, but hopes that its message is thoroughly understood. “We want these women to be seen, have fans, and most importantly BE SPOKEN ABOUT. The art world is so white. The art world is so male. This group of people is neither.”
There is still much to be done before the art world can reflect the diversity of its audience. Lugo admits to feeling “really disappointed” in some of the responses she received from galleries. “Some of them flat-out had no interest in an all WOC art show. Others told us flat out we couldn’t have more than five artists. You can’t narrow it down to five voices and leave the responsibility on their shoulders for their ethnicity or upbringing. That’s kind of an unfair burden to them.”
Luckily, that perspective was reflected by Faye Orlove, owner of the Hollywood arts community space Junior High. “From the initial e-mail, she was in,” says Lugo. “She’s helped us every step of the way and I can not thank her enough for her endless belief in the show and it’s message.”
Assume formation when MissRepresentation: A Show For Praising Women of Color opens at Junior High in Hollywood on Saturday, December 10th, 7-10pm. (5656 Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles, California 90028)