Artist Laura Shill on Feminist Artists and Bodily Autonomy
We caught up with artist Laura Shill, whose exhibition Phantom Touch is currently on view at MCA Denver to talk about feminism. Her upcoming, sold out, artist lecture will close out the 2016 season of Feminism & Co.
MCA Denver: Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Laura Shill: Yes! It’s 2016, who isn’t for equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal protections under the law for women (I mean, aside from half of the people running for president of our country right now)?
MCA: So much has changed for feminism in the last five years where do you see it going in the next five years?
LS: Has it? It seems that conversations around feminist issues have become more mainstream and visible and that there are many famous women and men calling out gender disparity, but the structural barriers that hold women back still remain — like the gender wage gap, the lack of paid parental leave for mothers and fathers, the systematic undervaluing of jobs that have traditionally been performed by women, the underrepresentation of women in positions of power. So, even though there are more thoughtful essays out there articulating the problems, there is also this simultaneous and dramatic rollback in access to women’s healthcare services. So, I hope that in the next five years, we can see symbolic change or awareness of problems translate into actual solutions.
MCA: What do you see as the most pressing feminist political issue?
LS: Ensuring bodily autonomy for women and girls — whether that be challenging a culture that sexually objectifies women and girls and then demands they alone shoulder the burden of not being assaulted or allowing women to control their own healthcare and reproductive rights — it all boils down to women being allowed to decide what happens to their bodies and when.
MCA: Who are your top feminist artists right now, in Denver and beyond?
LS: Denver is really brimming over with artists that inspire me like Amber Cobb, Theresa Anderson, Molly Bounds, Tya Anthony, and a whole host of others I am leaving out or haven’t met yet. I love much of what Petra Collins and the artist collective, The Ardorous, is doing. They are a group of young feminist artists who are employing humor, irreverence, vulnerability and a real savviness about technology and images. Writers like Roxane Gay and Rebecca Solnit keep challenging me to widen my perspective and deepen my compassion. Beyonce of course, because she is UNDENIABLE, Jenny Lewis, Lorde.
MCA: Tell us a good feminist joke.
LS: This one is a doozy — of the 20 people I asked, only one friend had a feminist joke and it turned out it was actually a sexist joke! Go figure.