May 4 2017 04:22 PM

REO Town hosts pair of feminist art pop-ups

The statistics don’t lie: Women are underrepresented in the arts. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, of 590 major exhibitions in the U.S. from the years 2007-2013, only 27 percent featured pieces by women. But two mid-Michigan art collectives are working to change those statistics, at least at the grassroots level, with a pair of shows in REO Town this month.

The first, “Girl Gaze,” is a dual effort between LCC student and artist Gigi Gomez, also known as Gi^2, and an MSU-based collective called Sometimes Art House, a group dedicated to highlighting the work of artists who often don’t have a venue for their work. About a month ago, Gomez approached Sometimes Art House founder Audrey Matusz with the idea of creating an exhibit.

“I haven’t been to an independent art exhibition in Lansing, and I felt that the majority of art exhibitions that I have gone to, they don’t incorporate any performance art, or it’s not really what I would like in an art exhibition,” Gomez said.

The event really kicked into gear after a Gomez experienced a tough interaction.

“Someone kicked me out of their house, because I wasn’t interested in them, and so I started thinking about how many times this has happened to other women,” Gomez said. “So, I thought it would be good to cultivate that energy into something positive and make a statement to raise awareness.”

That statement evolved into “Girl Gaze,” a mixed-media exhibit that will feature the work of female Lansing artists and examine the ways social media expands and distorts perceptions of feminism.

“We really want to play with perception and give people different lenses to look through,” Matusz said. “When people first walk in, we’ll assign them a lens that they have to now journey through the art exhibition with.”

Though the organizers remain tightlipped about much of the exhibition’s content, the event will feature everything from installations and photography to video elements and performance art. They expect it to spark discussion and engage exhibit-goers when it opens at the AA Creative Corridor Thursday.

“The audience is part of the spectacle,” Gomez said.

Exactly a week later, just a few storefronts down at the Robin Theatre, the Nameless Collective — a group of women and non-binary artists in Lansing — will host a similar show. “Art Grl Starter Pack” is also focused on feminist art, but this one steps out of the boundaries of mid-Michigan.

“We have gotten a lot more submissions than we were expecting, and it’s really exciting,” said Crystal Gause, a member of the collective. “We have photographers from the local area and illustrators from the local area. We’ve got exhibitors from Colorado, from Washington from Chicago — just a lot of people who we know from our network.”

The event will also showcase audio work and graphic illustrations, as well as live musical performances by Tall and Blonde, V. Soul and more.

Like “Girl Gaze,” “Art Grl Starter Pack” took roughly a month to put together, but it was inspired by different sources.

“You know the meme that’s like an art girl starter pack? It’s all these stereotypical things that constitute an art girl in the 21st century like septum piercings, a Michaels bag, etc.,” Gause said. “That’s where we got the idea. We wanted to plan that and submit things that were part of that meme but also unique to themselves.”

For the Nameless Collective, this show will be one of several in a running series that Gause said she hopes takes off. Though the theme of the upcoming shows has not yet been announced, the goal is to explore the art of marginalized groups. “We like the idea of doing like a house party or screening a show in the backyard or like a show in the garage,” Gause said. “Kind of using what we have to like put on cool art spaces — I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in the Detroit area or the Grand Rapids area, but we like how they do a lot of things, where you don’t have to have a lot of money to do something really cool.”

For now though, the collective is focused on bringing the “Art Grl Starter Pack” show to fruition. Gause said she realizes that “Girl Gaze” is similar and happening nearby, but she feels there is plenty of room for a new women-driven art community.

“There is so much room in the area for anyone who wants to get involved to do it,” Gause said. “I don’t feel that there’s a sense of competition, but that it’s just readiness for collective building.”

“Girl Gaze” 7-9 p.m. Thursday, May 4 FREE AA Creative Corridor, 1133 S. Washington Ave., Lansing

“Art Grl Starter Pack”

7-10 p.m. Thursday, May 11 FREE/$10 suggested donations The Robin Theatre, 1105 S. Washington, Lansing (989) 878-1810,