Viva La Femme: Women’s empowerment via art

April 19, 2014

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Kiana Williams

The feminist movement’s advocacy of gender equality and women’s liberation is not restricted to simply theoretical discourse, but is encouraged through all modes of expression, including art.  This is precisely what artist Little Ms. Aprill seeks to do through her latest project “Viva La Femme.” A Washington, D.C.-based illustrator and recent graduate from St. John’s University in Queens, New York, Aprill Hogue is most passionate about sharing stories through her artwork. Viva La Femme embodies this sentiment, with a mission to “uplift, empower, and celebrate women of color all over the globe, embracing the radical notions of self-love, femininity and celebrating diversity.”

"Anita" "Anita"

The Viva La Femme collection includes illustrations of women of all backgrounds, shapes and sizes; each woman is different and unique, like the real-life women that Little Ms. Aprill pulls her inspiration from. “My main goal for my art is for it to reach out and celebrate as many women as possible by providing them with beautiful imagery that they can truly find themselves in,” Aprill said. “I aim to support young women and their empowerment through showing them they are strong, powerful, intelligent, beautiful beings that deserve to take up space; they deserve to be celebrated and represented in a positive light, and that’s exactly what Viva La Femme aims to accomplish as the series continues to expand and grow.” Not only does Viva La Femme provide relatable depictions to women around the globe, but the experience by which the project was inspired also seems to be relatable. When visiting art galleries and museums, Aprill realized how little imagery existed of women that looked like her, and how little depiction of intersectional women existed in general. “I felt like there wasn’t enough positive representation for women of color in the world today… the inspiration for my pieces are drawn from my everyday life. My work aims to show these women not only that they are visible, but they are loved and that they shine.”

"Yoko"

Second year Ariel Kao agreed with Little Ms. Aprill’s vision for empowerment of women via art. Kao is the production manager of Inkstone Magazine, a U.Va. publication that seeks to exhibit culture through art and literature. “I think art in all forms is a source of quiet power for women,” Kao said. “More and more, we are starting to face up to our marginalized past and attain the courage to speak up. Our power comes from this perspective and fervor to pursue a more emotionally enriched form of art that reveals the truths and tells the stories of women around the globe.” First year Gillian Lee, the Feminism is For Everyone Zine co-editor at U.Va. also noticed how Hogue’s work tackles the problem of under and misrepresentation of minorities, including, but not limited to, women, which is a flaw in both art and in contemporary society as a whole. “Her portraits have a wonderfully unprofessional aesthetic to them," Lee said. "Because they are so stylized, they are very relatable. On top of that, they feature women of all shapes, sizes, styles and races. The viewer feels doubly empowered because Hogue’s work both redefines beauty and redefines what art can be; I think a woman can, thus, look at one of these portraits and not only see herself in the art, but also as making the art.” As for her views on the feminist movement itself, Aprill believes that intersectionality is a topic that needs much more attention. Intersectionality, the study of interactions of multiple systems of oppression and/or discrimination, is best approached by a “more inclusive representation of all marginalized groups that experience various systems of oppression, [whether it be] racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc. I think that all of it is connected, and if we don’t speak up and talk about it, and listen to one another’s experiences, we won’t be able to come together and work toward solutions.”

"Laili" "Laili"

Aprill aims for her art to express these goals for a more inclusive feminism, explaining why education, communication and empathy on topics surrounding intersectionality are so important for a greater understanding of the world. “I think that Little Ms. Aprill’s work deals with a really important problem in the art world which I, as an aspiring artist and general art fan, believe needs to be tackled head-on and solved,” said Lee. “It’s going to take a while, but Hogue’s work acknowledges the fact that women and minorities need to be represented more, and more truthfully; this is a big step in the right direction.” Little Ms. Aprill, a woman of color herself, has insight to ways the world can come together by supporting and acknowledging different experiences. She gave advice specifically to women at the university level. “Keep a positive group of people around you that encourage you to never give up, not only on your dreams, but on yourself [...] Know that your worth exceeds far beyond what your mind can fathom, even on your worst days. Remember that, remember to love yourself, be kind to yourself and respect yourself. Allow your personal growth to inspire you to reach new heights, and remember to give back and uplift someone else when you get there.” Learn more about Little Ms. Aprill: Official website: littlemsaprill.com Facebook: facebook.com/littlemsaprill Twitter: @littlemsaprill Instagram: @littlemsaprill

Images courtesy of the artist: Little Ms. Aprill

 

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