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Femmes and Thems - and 'Can an artist who is a woman ever be just an artist? '

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

It was undeniably Judith Butler who helped me to understand the way that feminism leads into to queer theory, but it was Alison Bennett who prompted me to look into it - I guess, knowing how much I would get out of it.

I should have applied to be part of Femmes and Thems, but this time I sat in the side-lines.

Up until recently, I haven't really given much credit to my queerness.

I found labels reductive and just wanted my work to speak for itself and leave my sexuality and other personal attributes out of it. Was this for fear that my particular political views might infiltrate the success of my art? or that I might be seen as cashing in on a minority status?

In the first half of this semester I was constantly citing an article titled "can awoman who is a woman ever be just an artist?" an interview with Cecily Brown and Celia Paul that delved into the reasons why gender doesn't need to come into an artists work. The question stuck with me.

With a combination of Dom Redfern's feedback on the way I was using that text, more frequent exposure to events like Femms and Thems, more critical research into queer artists, I am not so frustrated that the answer to the question asked in the title is 'no'.

The more I expand my understanding of heteronormativity and white centralisation the pin from the centre is taken out. There is no 'just an artist'. Even straight white males are not 'just', and political arguments for equality are not requesting homogenisation.

The more that my art explores who I am rather than what my interests are I am unable to escape these parts of myself when I am making.

Labelling doesn't have to be reductive and is often a contextual tool and it can be freeing to be reminded that art is always made through our lenses, we can never work outside our own demographics.

You can see my recent works celebrating queer identities on my Gallery page or here:

A recent interview with Anthony Caudhay put this view into words perfectly:

S.S: "Does your perception of the image from which you're working immediately queer it?"

A.C: Yes, I think all of my work is created from a gay perspective. There's no part of me, and no idea of mine, that isn't influenced by my being gay. This is something I think is difficult to explain to the straight people and gay people. I don't mind a label like "gay artist." I hate when people say, "Being gay doesn't define me!" It does. It's not everything, but it influences everything. Does that make sense? There's "obvious" work like paintings and drawings of my partner, Ian, but I think a queer lens is apparent in my work everywhere: in my fixations on presentation and representation, and the transitory. So, yes, "gay artist." I think it's reductive to find that limiting.


Femmes and Thems exhibition is available to visit online at

Screenshot from the VR exhibition room showing work by Karen Song (she/her), Female Monologues, photography, 2021. Master of Photography candidate.

Screenshot from the VR exhibition room showing work by Coni Qinling Zhang (she/her), Pregnancy, oil on canvas, and Ya Juan Long, Massive Mona Lisa and baby I, Oil on Canvas, 2021



Cusk, Racheal. "Can an Artist Who Is a Woman Ever Be Just an Artist?". The New York Times magazine (10/11/2019 2019).

Caudhay, Anthony. "Artist Anthony Cudahy Talks Paint & Pixels." By Sean Santiago. Art. 01/05/2016, 2016. (Accessed 20/10/2021)

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