With the second annual Spokane feminist art event, Fem+Fest invites everyone to explore what feminism means

click to enlarge Renn Francis' work addresses societal expectations of women. The idea for her piece on the right came from a collaboration with Mara Baldwin. - ERICK DOXEY PHOTO
Erick Doxey photo
Renn Francis' work addresses societal expectations of women. The idea for her piece on the right came from a collaboration with Mara Baldwin.

First thing's first: The Spokane Feminist Art Festival, a.k.a., Fem+Fest, is not a "women's show," explains festival director Annette Farrell.

"My intention is to invite all artists who identify as feminists to display their artwork together so we as a community can explore what that means to all of us in Spokane and the Inland Northwest," says Farrell, who co-founded the festival last year with Kelly Rae Matthews. "What is feminism here in our place and time in Spokane, and Sandpoint, and Moscow, and Eastern Washington?"

This year's event theme is pretty broad, Farrell says, with a call put out for "diverse and empowering representations of feminism in the Inland Northwest." She and other artists want the event to speak to the importance of intersectional feminism, which addresses the complex cumulative effects of discrimination, specifically drawing things like race, physical ability and sexuality into the conversation of equality.

The show will take place at the Downtown Spokane Public Library on April 27, and feature work from more than 25 artists, as well as dance, poetry and music performances.

One featured artist, Renn Francis, is a relatively recent Spokane transplant who moved here from Portland in late 2017. For much of her art, Francis uses vintage souvenir postcard booklets and reproduction paintings, which she adds oil paint lettering on top of, usually featuring some powerful or funny message that speaks to her.

Growing up in a fundamentalist religious household, Francis says it wasn't until later that she was able to express her queer identity and use strong language, so she typically lets that shine in her art. Her pieces in this show, however, are a little milder (it is the library, after all). She opted to work on floral paintings, which reference societal expectations for women to look and smell pretty, Francis says.

White oil paint on one of the pieces reads: "How to cat call: Step 1: See a cat.* Step 2: call out to it. *do not attempt with jungle cats."

While it might seem lighthearted, the piece was actually inspired by derisive catcalling Francis says she's experienced since being in Spokane.

"I have been catcalled a ton here, more than anywhere I've lived," Francis says. "In like a few months of living here I was called a 'carpetmuncher' on the street."

The piece is her attempt to poke fun at the practice while asking people to examine why they even do it.

"You see a cat, you call out to it. That's what catcalling should be," Francis says.

Artist Meagan Varecha, a junior at Eastern Washington University, says her digital art tends to use female models to explore the relationships people have with pain.

Her piece "B.I.L.L.I.E." shows a line drawing of a woman, back-to-back with an identical mirrored image. They're layered over bright geometric shapes on the left, and dark ones on the right.

"I'm an artist with chronic pain so I try to show that through my artwork," Varecha says. "So this piece is really about sort of the science between having chronic pain and the double side to it. On the left, it's an average, every day. The girl on the right side is sort of representing more the internal feeling [of pain]."

In addition to the displayed art and performances, there will be art vendor booths, a virtual reality painting setup and the chance to take selfies on the Glitter Couch.

The event is hosted in partnership with Spokane's chapter of the National Organization for Women and the Spokane Public Library and received a $6,000 grant from Spokane Arts this year. In part, the grant money will help organizers compile a zine of the artists' submissions and descriptions after the event.♦

Fem+Fest 2019 • Sat, April 27 from 6:30-9:30 pm • Free • All ages • Downtown Spokane Public Library • 906 W. Main • @femfestspokane • spokanenow.org/femfest


  • or

About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...