The new Fem-Fusion: Visual Art + the Written Word art exhibition, which focuses on the feminine spirit and strength, was officially opened on Saturday at the Art Center of the Art Alliance of Central Pennsylvania.
The gallery walls were adorned with works of art and written works of various kinds including the works of 14 women from Center County. Poems, paintings, essays, tattoos, photographs and more occupied the space.
After the opening, a spoken word event was held later on Saturday evening, highlighting several of the writers featured in the exhibition and their origins.
The co-organizers of the exhibition Stacie Bird and Nicole Miyashiro joined forces in 2019 to discuss a possible collaboration. Drifting back and forth over a cup of coffee with ideas, the two made a decision that ultimately led to the current exhibition.
Fem-Fusion’s ultimate concept was to bring artists and writers together to create pieces that were inspired by each other’s work. The artists and writers gave a piece of their own work and then created something completely new based on the original that was given to them.
Bird, vice president of the Art Alliance and alumna of Penn State, said she was first introduced to Miyashiro during an exhibition she curated, and the two met sporadically at various events. Bird, who graduated in 1985 with a degree in film, said she had a bond with Miyashiro and her poetry, which eventually led her to reach out to Miyashiro and suggest a collaboration.
“I met her a few more times after that and ended up saying, ‘You know, I feel like we should do something together,'” said Bird.
Miyashiro, the writer-in-residence for the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, said when Fem-Fusion came to fruition, she was hired to invite the writers, and Bird was hired to find the artists.
The decision to center the exhibition around female experiences and expressions was almost always a natural part of the process, according to Bird.
“I didn’t really see it as a feminine thing at first,” said Bird. “I think we never really thought about asking men to take part … I really wanted women to work together and support each other and come up with completely new things.”
“We were in a line,” said Miyashiro. “We didn’t have long conversations about the ‘female’ part … My focus was more on these issues.”
Originally planned for June 2020, Bird and Miyashiro had to quickly step on the brakes during the coronavirus pandemic. The artists and writers involved turned to Zoom to continue their work, according to Bird.
A year later the exhibition was permanently postponed and is now on view for Center County. Bird said it was almost overwhelming to finally see the work of the artists and writers together for the first time.
“I really didn’t know how it was going to work until I started receiving the pieces, and I just sat here and cried,” said Bird. “If you look at the works alone, they are wonderful writings and works of art, but when you put them together they will simply blow you away.”
Jordan Haines, a tattoo artist and founding member of the Paper Moon Tattoo Company at State College, is one of the featured artists in the exhibition. Her works on display include drawings she made in response to Miyashiro’s poetry, as well as a photo of a tattoo she drew.
Haines said the experience of creating art inspired by the work of others has been phenomenal.
“Working with Nicole almost felt like a blessing,” said Haines. “Our creativity and our visions complemented each other immediately. While reading her work there were moments that I recognized and that I try to point out in my own fine arts and also in relation to tattooing. “
When Nicole Gargiulo heard about the exhibition through Abby Minor, a friend and artist of the exhibition, she said it was wonderful to see the work-made by women at the opening event.
“To come back to a room after last year’s desolation that celebrates color, image, written word, female art and creativity – it’s just nice to be in that energy,” said Gargiulo.
Juliette Hawkins was in the Art Alliance building for the first time on Saturday, and she said the space and the works of art on display were positive experiences.
“I love the idea of collaboration between the arts and the fact that they were inspired and responded to each other,” said Hawkins (graduate literature). “Each of them had a piece that was complete and an answer.”
Hawkins said attending the exhibition opening was the first time she attended a group event since the pandemic began.
The exhibition at the Arts Center, located in Lemont at the gates of State College, will be open to the public again on June 12th from 10am to 6pm and on June 13th from 12pm to 4pm.
In addition to the exhibition, Bird and Miyashiro have created a virtual exhibition book for those who cannot be there in person. You can find the virtual option on Art Alliance Art website.
Bird said those who plan to attend the exhibition should prepare and be open to what to expect.
“Art is good for the soul – good art and good exhibitions make you think about things you never thought of,” said Bird. “In the case of Fem-Fusion, look at what women can do when we work together … be prepared to be overwhelmed.”
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