Written by Anthony Harrison, photos by Caleb Smallwood
Damsels in distress are so passé. Pop culture now embraces the action heroine, as shown by Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema’s newest art exhibit, SHEroes, which opened on March 21.
“We wanted to honor Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day,” Geeksboro co-owner Rachel Scott said via email. “Encouraging more women to take on leadership roles in real life, as well as in realms of fiction like comic books, TV shows and movies has always been important to all of us here at Geeksboro.”
Pieces from local artists, from college students to Drink and Draw participants, portray badass ladies from many genres and media — from film, animation and video games; from vampires to drag queens.
Two pieces focus on the protagonist from Iranian Amil Lily Amirpour’s vampire film, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, previously shown at Geeksboro. While both pieces portray the same subject, their executions vary widely.
Asheboro native Justin Maness’ “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night // Bad City” portrays the anonymous Girl in the top left corner, casting an ominous glare over the lonely streets of Bad City bisecting the piece, while her cat stares emptily out of the frame. While created digitally, the piece resembles a charcoal portrait, recalling the bleak, black-and-white aesthetic of the source material.
Greensboro artist Daniel Foster’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” reinterprets the film’s poster and its portrayal of the Girl in paper collage. The stark, ghostly rendering of the Girl remind one of the similarly vampiric No-Face from Hazao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. However, Twitter ramblings from Iran’s Ayatollah replace the sanguine background of the original poster; “Woman is a flower” stands out on the right. Quran quotations against a red background border the piece.
In short, the image is anything but flowery, contradicting the Ayatollah’s beliefs about womanhood and reinforcing the mandated suppression of women in Iran.
In his accompanying note, Foster writes, “[The Girl’s] vigilante justice subverts traditional gender roles, as would the film itself were it not censored in Iran. What’s not to admire?”
While the Girl stands as a contemporary subversive figure, the John Waters drag-queen star Divine’s status as revolutionary figure in upsetting the status quo needs little introduction.
Brandi Baldwin of Greensboro featured the infamous drag queen in her piece, “Divine.” While a colorful character, Baldwin chose to paint Divine’s multiple roles in black acrylic on a blank plane; the only color comes from an indigo bulb backlighting the foreground image, cut out of the flat canvas.
“To me, Divine is a symbol of strength and bravery,” Baldwin wrote in her artist’s note. “Though wild and grotesque, she is never afraid to be herself.”
SHEroes emphasizes the changing tide in popular culture of putting women in the spotlight as true role models instead of romantic interests or helpless props.
“Women still get criticized for liking or enjoying things that aren’t considered lady-like,” Scott said.
“Women who want to do anything outside of their traditional roles can be excluded and looked at as an ‘other,’ much like a geek.”
You can see SHEroes at Geeksboro Coffeehouse Cinema, located at 2134 Lawndale Drive in Greensboro. The exhibit will be displayed until April 25.