Empowerment is a preview of The Anti Art Fair that will take place from 4th to 7th October 2018. If you are in London between 8th and 10th of March 2018, make sure to pop in to Shoreditch and support this incredible event!

Empowerment will take place at 7-11 pm, 8 – 10 March, in Black & White Building, 7 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3AY. Tickets start at £5.86 and include entry, a goodie bag, and a charity donation to End Violence Against Women Coalition.

What does the empowerment mean to Francena Ottley and Airco Caravan (Nasty Women Amsterdam), two of the artists who will participate in the Nasty Women Exhibition? Read what they had to say.

Francena Ottley’s work consists of poetry, installations, photography, video, embroidery, sculptures and more. Her goal is to always make work that speaks to people, empowers people, and shares knowledge. Some of her previous exhibitions include the Posture x Ello Issue 04 release party, Whitney Houston Biennial at Chashama, The Future is Femme group show at ATYPE, Genius Loves Company at the Art Gallery of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Building, and many more. (source: Creative Debuts)

What does empowerment mean to you personally?

In regards to my work, empowerment means to inspire, to encourage, and to uplift other young women of colour. It means to reverse every ‘no’ a woman might have received and let them know that through every struggle, you can achieve something great. For me it’s about using your black girl magic to love yourself and others, to be confident, and not afraid to be something outside of what society calls ‘normal’.

How do you create your art and what is the main subject of your work?

My photographic process usually consists of finding inspiration and doing tons of research. When it’s time for me to start on a new series or project, I like to read books, articles, magazines, and blogs just to see what’s going on in the world and what kind of art is being produced. I then start to write out my ideas and create mood boards for shoots. I think about everything that will make my ideas come to life, including lighting, models, and colours.

I’ve recently decided that installation work is also a big part of my passion, so with every new body of work I produce, I try to see how I could turn it into an installation and what other components such as sculptures, paintings, etc. I could add to take my work to the next level.

My work is a mix of fashion photography that depicts issues that have an impact on society. I like to create art that has meaning and that captures the essence of the problems faced by black women in America.

In my recent work, I have focused on the beauty of African culture. This has led me create my series Our Perceived Limitations and most recently The Rewrite that’s showing at Empowerment. These series all have a common denominator of reclaiming blackness – a push for everyone to understand we are here, we are black, we are powerful, and this is our story.

How do you design your work and how long does it usually take to create one piece?

I love mixing different medias together. Through embroidery, sculpture, fabrics, photography, I’m able to create a complete piece. Every project is different and many of my installations require lots of planning ahead. When I do an installation, I always want to recreate the entire space and have the viewer be put into a different environment.

I have a pretty strong ability to work at the last minute, so most of my projects end up being done in the last, final weeks before the due date. I once created an entire braided wall, out of 50 plus eight-foot yarn braids that I individually made, in three weeks. I managed to complete my installation of 100 plus books in about two weeks.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your art or the way it is executed?

The subject is always important to me. I feel that everything is trial and error, but without a good subject and a strong message, the work can fall flat no matter how great the execution is.

When you create, is there a deliberate message present from the very beginning?

It’s about 50/50. Sometimes the message comes to me first and then I try to figure out ways in which I can turn that message into something physical. Other times, I see things that inspire me and it helps me start on a new project.

When a piece of your work is complete, do you remain attached to it or is there a catharsis with detachment present at the end of the project?

I’m definitely very attached to my work. I am still a Junior in college and from the beginning, I’ve always created work around the same theme of women empowerment. Next year, I would like to have one final exhibition of all my work combined, to show it as one complete project. After that, I’ll be more than willing to release it to the world and see how it lives on. In the meantime, you can see my portfolio at Creative Debuts, including works for sale.

How does it feel to be a part of such an important exhibition such as Empowerment?

I’m beyond grateful to Creative Debuts and Nasty Women Exhibition for being selected to present my work in Empowerment. It’s always a great feeling to know your work is surrounded by other works, operating with the same goal. This is a chance to allow my work to be seen on a more international level and for it not to just empower my friends or those in my city, but to empower women around the world.

_______________________________________

Airco Caravan‘s art (Nasty Women Amsterdam), presented on the picture below, is a response to misogynistic presidents and demonstrations of the Christian pro-life movement, which uses all possible means to demonize abortion. They show gruesome pictures with the slogan The Art of Abortion to frighten people; children are indoctrinated into sampling little 12-week-old silicon fetuses. These fetuses were the core of Airco Caravan’s project. When she ordered 2,000 fetuses, they ran out of stock for many weeks, so the pro-life organisation wasn’t able to use those fetuses for their own purpose. (source: Creative Debuts)

What does empowerment mean to you personally?

To me, empowerment means being independent. It’s about not accepting misogyny, sexism, discrimination, and inequality. This process requires hard work and never giving up.

How do you create your art and what is the main subject of your work?

The process of art always breeds in my mind. It is often accelerated by the news, disasters and political issues. One of the main subjects of my work is feminism and murder including unusual murder weapons and locations. And of course, women’s rights! There are always messages relating to this present – both hidden and direct.

How do you design your work and how long does it usually take to create one piece?

Most of the time, I do a lot of research first and then I start sketching. When the sketch is more or less ready, I start painting with oil paint and acrylic. However, sometimes the sketches become installations or collages. The process can take from days to years to be complete, depending on the piece.

Which is more important to you, the subject of your art or the way it is executed?

Both are important, but if I really have to choose, it is the subject.

When you create, is there a deliberate message present from the very beginning?

Yes, there’s always a message. But it can be hidden and it doesn’t have to be revealed.

When a piece of your work is complete, do you remain attached to it or is there a catharsis with detachment present at the end of the project?

I’m always a little too attached to the artwork. I really miss my Baburqa, the work that’s showing in EmpowermentIt used to be on a shelf close to me in my studio, so I am used to seeing it every day. On the other hand, it’s also a joy to wave an artwork goodbye.

How does it feel to be a part of such an important exhibition such as Empowerment?  

I became involved in the Nasty Women movement soon after it started in 2017; I participated in the first ever and also the largest exhibition in New York.

Since then, I participated in many of the Nasty Women fundraisers and decided to start one in Amsterdam. I now think London is the heart of the movement, and this is my second show with Creative Debuts and Nasty Women Exhibition. It’s been such an honour to have been selected for both shows and I look forward to seeing how the movement will grow over the next year.

Interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Edited by Sanja Struna

All pictures © Creative Debuts and the artists

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About View of the Arts

We are enthusiasts of the arts, passionate about cinema, theatre, and literature. Maggie is a freelance film producer, production manager and she also works with children. Sanja is a freelance translator, occasional writer and a perpetual dreamer. Film is her first and longest-lasting love. Roxy is an Arts Journalist, who writes for several magazines and websites.

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Art, Art and music, General, In Conversation with

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