Every now and then, a show comes along that really shapes the course of creative compassion, and sets a standard to be remembered. ‘Praise You’ is one of these shows.
INTERVIEW: SARAH HAZLEHURST
Working in support of Australia’s leading charity organisation for eating disorders and negative body image, The Butterfly Foundation, this giant group show will feature over 30 national and international female artists, all joining forces to educate, inform and challenge the accepted ideas of body image and comparison, by appreciating and empowering all elements of the female form through visual art, (with all proceeds being donated directly to The Butterfly Foundation).
Below left to right: Amy Clemens / Kate Pullen
NC: What’s the ideal goal you want to achieve with this show?
LUSID ART: Normality and self-acceptance to put it simply. To me, these are the biggest contributors to mental health and in turn body image. Being confident in everything you can offer, and in turn being able to empower those around you. Praise You has obviously evolved from the seeded idea of body image to really educating and challenging what we know as a society about our preconceived expectations. Praise You will turn what we know on it’s head and celebrate everything we’ve done.
NC: What does ‘Praise You’ as a concept mean to you?
RACH PONY: I like thinking about the exhibition title as both an inwardly and outwardly directed imperative: as in, you celebrating you, but I'm also celebrating you, and that's going to be passed around among our community. A collective acknowledgement and celebration of badassery.
Below left to right: Bree Auty / Elana Mullaly / Nikkita Ra / Chanelle Rose
NC: Talk us through the piece you created:
RACH PONY: Stylistically, I wanted to draw influence from decadent, romantic Art Nouveau themes, with a bit of a psychedelic feel but also that low-brow/comic style crispness. It's also taking a lot from the distilled intensity that I feel when I'm at home (the farm where I grew up); I always catch myself in these borderline poetic, trippy nature scenes that make me forget about the vessel for a while, because I'm just so in awe of the powerful world.
LUSID: The piece I created, titled, 'Emma' really hits home for me, although it's on the most simpler side of my style, the photo itself is actually a recreation of the photo that inspired Praise You for me. The woman in the photo is a dear friend of mine who has been a long time supporter and the photographer is a friend of hers. So it's really full circle. The piece itself represents freedom, normality and positivity - I think there's a bit of this woman in all of us and it's just a matter of setting everything aside that's negative and letting her shine.
NC: Have you ever felt that your body, and/or your gender defines how you’re perceived as an artist?
LUSID ART: I have been looked down on in the past more so maybe because of my age. I think if anything being female and creative and fucking driven has been a blessing - because it’s not only shown people that I’m unstoppable when I set my mind to something, but I’ve really proved to myself in the last year - quite literally ANYTHING is possible with the drive and passion.
RACH PONY: My gender and body have had less of an impact on how I'm perceived as an artist than maybe they would have in a different field... Although there are times and areas and fields within art where there is inequality and maybe judgement, in my experience it's a lot less split along gender lines. Maybe that's a natural consequence of the arts being a bit more progressive? I felt differently about my gender when I worked in journalism or in corporate roles, where there's more structured management and comparable salaries. But all that being said, my gender defines what I produce as an artist, and in that light it is a very positive thing.
Below left to right: Sarah Howell / Tiffany Atkin
NC: What does 'empowering women' mean to you?
LUSID ART: To me empowering someone means you are first confident in yourself and what you offer to life. Empowerment affects every aspect of someone's life, when you give someone that support to break through issues such as body image, career development or even just general assistance, it really shines on both parties and ripples into the community. I think without empowerment, the world would be a very self conscious and bitter environment.
RACH PONY: I think it's providing the opportunity to work unfettered by those disadvantages, criticisms or internalised strange ideas that have been used to control and marginalise women forever. It's unfortunate, but true that the world isn't equal, so there needs to be a conscious exploration of that and allocation of time and space to those who have been shortchanged on space, validation, opportunities or respect. And, of course, there's intersectionality to consider in that too. I think it will come from banding together, supporting each other, and applying a lot of strength and sensitivity.
NC: What are you expectations for the exhibition? It's an insane lineup!
RACH PONY: There's going to be some really beautiful and personal work produced by a very incredible group of women. And that body of work should set the vibe for lots of supportive, celebratory, feelings of love. Hopefully that leads to a significant contribution to the Butterfly Foundation, and gives us all an excuse to carve out a little time to think about the way we love and consider ourselves, both mentally/abstractly and physically/bodily.
LUSID ART: After so long of dreaming, planning and organising I think seeing it all come to life. I’m looking forward to celebrating, seeing people enjoy themselves and I think most important how much of an impact this one event can make on The Butterfly Foundation.