Asheville-based potter Kristin Schoonover doesn’t mince words when it comes to the current administration.
“When Donald Trump was first elected, I thought, ‘He’s awful, but maybe other politicians will keep him from making horrible mistakes,’” says Schoonover. “That’s not been the case.”
A year ago, the Clayspace Co-op member teamed up with Planned Parenthood South Atlantic to host the Nasty Women Art Exhibition in Asheville, a fundraiser that doubled as a rejoinder to Trump’s attitudes toward women’s rights and health care. Now, Schoonover and her collaborators are back at it, mounting the next iteration of the exhibit on Friday, Jan. 12, in the Wedge at Foundation.
“We didn’t know what to expect last year,” says Kate Maxcy, communications associate at PPSA.
“But it was amazing,” adds Shannon Wroblewski, associate director of donor engagement. “Knowing how much awareness it generated, we had to do it again.”
Though Wroblewski and Schoonover were responsible for the legwork, they owe the event’s concept to New York-based curator Jessamyn Fiore and artist Roxanne Jackson. Unnerved by Trump’s public objectification of women (particularly his behavior during the third presidential debate, when he described opponent Hillary Clinton as “such a nasty woman”), Fiore and Jackson invited female artists to express their shared disdain in a group show. The proposal garnered 1,000 submissions.
“Feeling shaken and scared after the election, I wanted to send some pieces up to New York, too,” says Schoonover. “But the organizers came back and said what they actually needed was for people to host their own exhibitions.”
Per Fiore and Jackson’s guidelines, any venue can participate, though the show must be inclusive of all female artists and benefit an organization that supports women’s rights. And so, after less than two months’ worth of planning, Asheville joined Boston, Chicago, Tucson, Rome and London in hosting an exhibition. The local show raised $8,000.
“It was a great opportunity to bring like-minded people together in our community,” says Wroblewski. “I left feeling so energized.”
Schoonover, the event’s co-organizer, adds, “I thought it would be cool if the line went out the door and people were fighting over artwork.” She says, with a laugh, “That’s exactly how it was. The space was so packed.”
One hundred artists submitted pieces, with highlights including a crocheted dildo and a cartooned depiction of the current American president. (Schoonover predicts more Trump-inspired works will crop up this time around.) Each piece was priced between $1 and $100, and could not exceed 12 inches in any direction. All female artists were welcome to submit, regardless of skill level. Several Buncombe County students even displayed their work. “For many people, this was their first exhibition,” says Schoonover.
But excluding male artists — a standard that originated with the New York exhibition — just didn’t sit right with some Asheville residents.
“Last time, we had to turn away men who wanted to participate,” notes Schoonover. “This one guy was so sweet. I told him, ‘Oh, gosh. We can’t take your work.’ And he was like, ‘Well, what if I sign it in my wife’s name?’”
To fully realize their goal of inclusivity, organizers expanded this year’s tagline to include “bad hombres” — a nod to the conversation in which Trump told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto he would send U.S. troops to stop “bad hombres down there.”
“I know so many men who showed up at the women’s marches. It just felt right to include them. Especially since Planned Parenthood helps men, too,” says Schoonover.
In that regard, the Nasty Women and Bad Hombre Art Exhibition underscores the range of services offered by PPSA. With nine offices across North Carolina, PPSA provides birth control, vaccinations, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for STDs, HIV screenings, miscarriage management and other care to both men and women. In 2016, the organization helped 24,000 patients. Though supported by private donors, many health centers, including Asheville’s McDowell Street location, also receive federal Title X funds for services such as family planning and wellness exams. As discussed on Planned Parenthood’s website, legislation supported by Vice President Mike Pence now threatens to reallocate those funds.
“Over 60 percent of our patients in WNC are uninsured,” reads a statement posted on the local Nasty Women Exhibition webpage. “But sadly, we are preparing to be defunded.”
According to Maxcy, PPSA is fighting back with education. Staff members encourage supporters to become PPSA patients (even if they are insured), subscribe to mailing lists, participate in rallies and attend events like the upcoming exhibit.
“When you walk through our doors, we have our game faces on,” says Maxcy. “As human beings, the politics might affect us, but we’re still doing our jobs. We’re still here to do the hard work.”
WHAT: Nasty Women and Bad Hombres Art Exhibition, nastywomanasheville.org
WHERE: The Wedge at Foundation, 5 Foundry St.
WHEN: Friday, Jan. 12, 6 p.m.