21 September 2014

Being Female at The Hold

Images: Jonathan Rae
Words: Saskia Edwards
Artwork: Heidi Stevens and Carolyn McKenzie-Craig

What is it to be female?

In the 21st century it goes beyond the basic physiological elements that make up the gender - hips, breasts, the womb. To be a modern female, women have to fulfill a myriad of expectations.

Women are expected to work, to be ambitious, to be independent, while still being caring, and maternal and beautiful and feminine and basically encapsulate everything Beyonce has set unreasonably high standards for. 

Heidi Stevens’ soft pastel sculpture captures the 21st century female experience.

“Contemporary feminism has come so far as far as women can have jobs and get an education and birth control - all of the larger things that we all know about.

“But on the flip side I feel like not only are we able to, we’re expected to, but we’re also expected to retain our female role as caregiver, not just to children, but to the community and elderly parents.

“And we’re meant to earn as much as our male partners, but also be the caregiver and take on all these extra roles as well as domestic duties and all of that.

“So I feel like there’s a dualism there; we’ve got a lot more options, but we’re still grounded in the expectation of our biology and our history.”

Heidi’s sculptures were created in a matter of minutes and as Heidi is a new mother they are aptly titled While the Baby Sleeps. The works, perhaps as a result of the timeframe they were created in, seem to peel back experiences to their rawest form. The colours and shapes are at the essence of an emotion or experience - the vagina, birth, love, fighting, motherhood. 

There is also a series of Heidi’s photographs at The Hold. Heidi comes from a photographic background and has used the medium throughout her practice. 

“I’m quite fascinated with the language of commercial photography - high end fashion images and how they’re selling a particular lifestyle or branding.

“So I kind of highjack that, lighting and the way I print my work and present it, so that I can attract a viewer that maybe wouldn’t look at my work if they just knew the raw content about it being dissatisfaction with the contemporary world as a female.”

Heidi ultimately makes a comment on what it is to be a woman in all its banal shared experiences engrained through centuries of stereotypes. Being a woman in the 21st century is a contradiction: soft yet hard, beautiful yet tough, a nurturer and a leader.

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