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Art shows the importance of being feminist

"WTF," a feminist art exhibit, is at Studio 3 West, above, and Prøve Collective. (Photo courtesy of Drew Digby)1 / 2
Artwork created by Chelsea Branley. (Photo by Chelsea Branley)2 / 2

Opening on International Women's Day, March 8, "WTF! A Feminist Art Exhibition" kicked off for its first year.

WTF stands for "What the Feminists," though "there are a couple of ways to take it," said co-curator Jamie Ratliff.

Ratliff and the other curator, Stacie Renné, collaborated with Studio 3 West and Prøve Collective art galleries to produce a thought-provoking environment displaying works of art that advocate for social justice, community action and civic engagement centered on Women's Rights and similar concerns.

"We received such a great response between the two galleries, we probably received work from around 100 artists," said Studio 3 West owner Drew Digby. "I have really loved seeing the range of artists and the conversations with artists as they've come in. It has been really inspiring."

Studio 3 West, one of the two studios displaying the artwork, was opened last July by Digby. When opening the studio, his goal was to work with many artists and get their work on display. Through this exhibition, artists who have been showing their work for a long time were able to display their work along with artists who have never had there work on display.

"A goal was to help artists show work that is maybe a little edgy for other venues in Duluth, sometimes Duluth is a really progressive city but sometimes it can be a bit conservative, it's really nice to show the work for art's sake," Digby said.

Digby himself is not an artist, but is a lover of art. He says working with Renné and Ratliff has been incredible. Renné joined the Feminist Action Collective in Duluth and from there decided to attend the Women's March on Washington.

"I was inspired by the amount of togetherness at the march, the peacefulness of it," said Renné. "One of the other things that inspired me there were all the creative signs. As a painter and a photographer, I really went to record what I saw. I was a participant but also an observer."

Returning from the march with a strong inspiration to bring feminist issues to light, she and Ratliff, an assistant professor of art history at the University of Minnesota Duluth, started to get a gallery put together in Duluth along with some friends.

"I decided to open the gallery up to the public and once we did, it was an overwhelming response," Renné said. "Giving women and feminists a voice is really great because it feels like we're being shut down around every corner."

When artist Chelsea Branley heard about the art show through a friend, she knew she wanted her work on display. Branley finds her inspiration through being a woman, but more importantly, through being a mother.

"All the experience that I have had as a mother has given me a new light on my process as an artist," Branley said. "I knew immediately that I wanted to incorporate a three-dimensional piece because I felt like it would have a powerful presence. I consider myself a mixed media artist and like incorporating things that maybe others wouldn't consider."

The exhibition has a vast array of artwork in all forms. Branley's sculpture is a woman's torso, created and sculpted with vibrant colors. Other pieces include jewelry, paintings, drawings and more.

The exhibit is at both the Prøve Collective, 21 N. Lake Ave., and Studio 3 West, 3 West Superior St., 4-7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. At Prøve it is open until Sunday, March 19, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The exhibit continues solely at at Studio 3 West the following Thursday, Friday and Saturday, concluding with a closing celebration 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. More information regarding the exhibition can be found on the WTF! A Feminist Art Exhibition Facebook page.

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