Arts & Entertainment

How the Dallas ‘Nasty Women’ Art Show Loops in a History of Women’s Suffrage

A chat with organizer Rachel Rushing, who secured more than 100 pieces in the Dallas version of this national art effort.

Today marks the 104th anniversary of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade on Washington. Three Dallas artists—Iris Bechtol, Emily Riggert, and Rachel Rushing—have organized an exhibition called “The Dallas Nasty Women Exhibition” at Sunset Art Studios to showcase more than 100 works of art that honor the struggle of our foremothers while also acknowledging their shortcomings.

Rachel Rushing, the organizer of the Dallas 'Nasty Women' art exhibition. (Courtesy: Rushing)
Rachel Rushing, the organizer of the Dallas ‘Nasty Women’ art exhibition. (Courtesy: Rushing)

The show capitalizes on Donald Trump’s ‘nasty woman’ insult he hurled at Hillary Clinton during the presidential debate, a line that’s become a rallying call for women across the country. We were able to catch up with Rachel Rushing, exhibition organizer and Sunset Art Studios co-founder, to learn more about this exhibition and what it hopes to accomplish. The show is located at 1811 Balboa Place, in the heart of Oak Cliff’s Elmwood Neighborhood, and lasts through the weekend.

D: So what is a nasty woman?

Rachel Rushing : You know, I really think it’s anyone who’s tired of being interrupted, put down, or pushed aside and want to work toward a more just, fair, equitable, and free society. I think people who have dealt with that kind of treatment, in subtle or overt ways, are tired of it and are tired of being ashamed about it. We live in a pretty amazing age that those groups can connect with each other like we’ve never seen in history, and empower each other through that connection.

D: What inspired you to launch the exhibition? I know it’s part of a national effort, but was it started before or after the Women’s March?

RR: I saw, and a few people sent me the website to the original nasty women exhibition in NYC around the same time as the women’s march. I can’t remember now if it was before or after. Definitely close to that day. They did the original show and then invited other venues to host their own “sister” exhibition in local spaces.

D: How has the response been to exhibition call locally?

RR: Really supportive. There have been so many people excited about this from different backgrounds. I think on the event page we’ve only had maybe one troll who wanted to say some horrible things, but that’s been the only negative response we’ve encountered.

D: How many artists are in the show? Anyone notable? Mostly professional or a range?

RR: It’s been a big range, but that’s been exciting for us, to be able to encourage so many types and levels of artists. We’ve gotten right around 100 entries. We’ve gotten pieces in from artists like Kenda North and Margaret Meehan. Rusty Scrubby made some knit hats. Jay Bailey. Ashley Whitt. Marty Ray, Carolyn Sortor, Brennen Bechtol, Erin Stafford, Rachel Fischer are a few more artists who have donated work. Then we have a good number of emerging professionals too.

D: The date of the show was intentional, and so is some of the language acknowledging the history of white feminism. How do you navigate the suffrage movement and the history of exclusion?

RR: First I think you have to acknowledge it. Pretending that feminism has always been this “sunshine and roses” movement does nothing for anyone. If we are going to bring about justice and equity as a society, that has to start with saying “this is how we’ve messed up before” and now is the time to do better. We’ve been intentional throughout the development of this show to be aware of those mistakes and then include people who have historically been excluded from feminist conversation, like women of color or trans women.

Looking at that exclusion and then being intentional about the call for entry and inviting speakers from local activist groups have been specific ways we’ve tried to be inclusive with this show.

D: How does this show relate to the mission of Sunset Art Studios?

RR: So Sunset’s mission is all about access, whether that’s access to space for artists or providing approachable opportunities for the public/non-artists to engage with art. We want to meet people where they are instead of making them come to us.

And if we think about art as expression, that’s really what this show is about, for me. This show is a way to give people a venue to express their frustration, their fear, their hope; all of those reactions to this new political atmosphere. Politics is just another word for power and this administration seems to want to disempower a lot of people, all over the country, from all different backgrounds or interests. This show has been a way for us to try and empower those groups through expression, through coming together in solidarity- by existing together in the same space, I hope those same people are able to see that they aren’t alone. I mean, in a way, just existing is its own declaration and form of power.

Some other notable openings this weekend:

Friday

Invisible by Ciara Elle Bryant
South Dallas Cultural Center – March 3, 6 – 8 p.m.
3400 S Fitzhugh Ave, Dallas, Texas 75210
https://www.facebook.com/events/1582497578445055/

Sovereignty in the Age of Digital Capital with Natalie Smolenski
Pollock Gallery – March 3, 6 p.m. – midnight
3140 Dyer St, Dallas, Texas 75205
https://www.facebook.com/events/1729682757342755/

Nasty Women Exhibition: Dallas Edition
Sunset Art Studios – March 3, 7 – 9 p.m.
1811 Balboa Place, Dallas, Texas 75224
https://www.facebook.com/events/753484181491915/

Saturday

No Unsacred Places by Peter Hiatt
Oak Cliff Cultural Center – March 4, 5:30 – 8 p.m.
223 W Jefferson Blvd, Dallas, Texas 75208
https://www.facebook.com/events/423303934668769/

Position + Permeability by Carolyn Sortor
Beefhaus – March 4, 7 – 10 p.m.
833 Exposition Ave, Dallas, Texas 75226
https://www.facebook.com/events/165094793998855/

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