Femininity is defined as a set of characteristics, behaviors, and attributes associated with women and girls, according to a quick google search. These same search engines acknowledge that femininity is socially constructed. FemArchy is a collective of femme-identifying artists, whose mission statement say they “believe femininity is a state of mind, feeling, and action.”
The opening show of this collective happened at The Gradient, a female-owned bar in Bushwick. As with anything involving femme artists, I’ve been thinking about how powerful women are, and how femininity is linked to divinity. Naturally, I was excited to see this show. I was greeted by Lana Du Freak who curated the show and collective. As an artist, she is also known as Muffinman.
She explained to me how the collective started not too long ago. The collective started in March, at the height of the pandemic when Lana wanted to integrate more of her femme identity into her work. In simple layperson’s terms, a femme is anyone who is drawn to specific attributes of traditional femininity as a form of expression, typically in the queer community. The term femme can truly be self-defined into anything you want it to be whether through the color pink, pastries, or poise.
In simple layperson’s terms, a femme is anyone who is drawn to specific attributes of traditional femininity as a form of expression, typically in the queer community.
The artists’ Muffinman usually hung out with usually were women or femmes. Naturally, a group began to form, and women across mediums started contributing their work. The collective’s mission statement wonderfully embodies how important authenticity is, regardless of your artistic medium. “Assigned female at birth or not, they ask you to come as you are,” it reads. Good art, illegal or not, only works to create a reaction if the artist brings their own authenticity.
Good art, illegal or not, only works to create a reaction if the artist brings their own authenticity.
Muffinman and I continued to make small talk, and she explained why she chose The Gradient for the Deck The Halls exhibition. “I really like doing art shows in bars,” she explained as she showed me the beer jars that she and another friend of hers, Zera, painted. Other artists of the beer jugs were Yen, Love Notes, and Dada Coz. “It’s always important to support small businesses,” she said.
As a venue, The Gradient fit like a glove to portray in the “Fem” part of “FemArchy.” The bar itself is low-lit but employs fluorescent pink lighting. Even the menu is 3 different shades of pink, and as the night progressed, the whiskey sour I ordered also started to look pink.
The Gradient also had artwork by other femme artists, including OG Millie’s mirrors with pop culture icons. The Deck The Halls exhibit was an homage to one of 6 elements of hip-hop: Skateboarding. In their mission statement, it’s acknowledged that it is a common misconception that are only 4 elements of hip-hop. It’s written, “You’re fond of the MC, Break Dancer, Graffiti artists and DJ pioneering this movement, No? Yet 2 were left out… The action sports athlete, and queer ballroom performer.”
It’s written, “You’re fond of the MC, Break Dancer, Graffiti artists and DJ pioneering this movement, No? Yet 2 were left out… The action sports athlete, and queer ballroom performer.”
Deck the Halls is a play on words referring to skateboard decks and pays homage to this element of hip-hop. It is also a reference to the classic holiday jingle. The show exhibited different boards, painted by different artists. They were all uniquely distinct in artistry and style, the thing linking them is the power of femininity. Among these artists were Blue Afro, Miss Isabelle Ewing, Hiraku, HISS, Lexi Bella, Zera, Beetlebob, Caryn Cast, and Sfrgrajales. What struck me was how individual each piece was and yet how the exhibit effortlessly formed a collective. Not a single piece looked out of place.
I was profoundly struck by the vibrancy in each piece. “Those Eyes,” by Lexi Bella, used the space of the deck realistically, adding a certain depth to them when you see it from afar.
As you look closer, you see the vibrant hues of orange and pink, that complement the mysticism and allure of the green eyes. The long lashes and hints of eyebrows add further detail. The allure of this deck is how it draws you into a woman’s eyes but you can still notice the vibrancy around her.
“Manifesting with the Moon” by Isabelle Ewing similarly used the space to portray how divine femininity is. Ewing’s piece showed the figure of a goddess-like woman, with a curvy figure effortlessly taking the shape of the board. The colors in the piece also define the space of the woman, going from a vibrant purple, subtly shifting to pink, and back again with rich oranges, and yellows. Wrapped around the woman is her long blue hair, a traditional characteristic attributed to femininity.
Wrapped around the woman is her long blue hair, a traditional characteristic attributed to femininity.
“Hello There” by Sf Grajales, has a timeless look with a sleek finishing touch. It’s Catwoman, with the areas of the mask subtly emphasizing her makeup. A simple red lipstick, with winged eyeliner to compliment it. The epigraph “Hello There” is written in triumphant neon pink is at the top of the board. The board itself, I came to learn, is double-sided with rhinestones, one may as well ride with some style.
Blue Afro had a vibrant yellow board displayed, standing out uniquely. Her board was titled, “Crystal Blue Persuasion”, with the same woman having personified features on opposite ends of the board. With big bright blue eyes, long lashes, and big lips, one woman smiles while the other has a stoic expression. In between is an illustration of an animal that could be a dog.
Beetlebob’s board has a whimsical character drawn, wearing simple striped clothing, and a hat that takes shape of a cat. In the backdrop are two yellow sunflowers, adding a wonderful cartoon dimension.
Caryn Cast’s work was mainly her prints with witty titles like “Psycho Kitty,” “Pig On Roller Skates,” and “Fluffy The Wine Drinking Cat”. If you thought dogs playing poker was hilarious, wait until you take in Caryn’s print of cats toasting one another. She also showcased a board with a lizard reaching for an ice cream cone with its tongue. I was taken aback by the less obvious print titled “Zoe and Chloe.” It’s two women eating corn on the cob while menacingly staring at you. They’ve got classic sixties updos and green skin. I found it amusing in a pop-art way. Who needs Warhol when you’ve got Zoe and Chloe, two corntastic alien gals.
They’ve got classic sixties updos and green skin. I found it amusing in a pop-art way. Who needs Warhol when you’ve got Zoe and Chloe, two corntastic alien gals.
Zera and Hiraku’s boards were placed next to another, both employing a bold color scheme and distinct line work. Zera’s board had her character SkiGurl unapologetically rollerskating freely, with two peace signs held up. Zera’s SkiGurls were also on beer jugs displayed at the bar. Hiraku’s board next to it uses the characters of her “Monster Squad,” the backdrop being a baby blue board, as the rest of the characters appear on a pink cloud. HISS also had bright pink color usage on her board and a feminine witchy vibe. The top of her board has her classic cat character with 3 eyes and is shaped like a planet.
Finally, there was the FemArchy board by Muffinman herself titled “Frosted.” MuffinMan is known for her pastry work, and the letters have sprinkles dripping from them. It was the cherry on top, an homage to tying together not only the collective but to a greater gravity-defying power of art created by women and femmes.
The way all the pieces worked together yet didn’t outshine one another lives up to FemArchy’s mission statement of not establishing any type of hierarchy. Deck The Halls was a celebration of beautiful art created at an uncertain time and allowed women, femmes, and queer people to claim space in the street art world.
This is only the beginning for FemArchy, a collective committed to beautifying their communities through true unapologetic authenticity. FemArchy’s work doesn’t stop at just artwork. They seek to “beautify their hoods,” as they have painted community fridges, offer free food, and engage in numerous community outreach efforts. During this holiday season, they are hosting an art auction with all the proceeds going toward TranSanta.
They seek to “beautify their hoods,” as they have painted community fridges, offer free food, and engage in numerous community outreach efforts.
TranSanta is a virtual chimney started by Indya Moore (POSE) and Chase Strangio, to help trans and intersex youth safely be given gifts. The TranSanta Instagram page is flooded with various Christmas letters from trans and intersex people in need this holiday season. In the link tree, you can click on each letter, and directly give gifts to those kids. With this virtual chimney, we can all be Santa for trans and intersex kids.
FemArchy has since hosted an art auction with proceeds going towards this organization. The artist’s pieces are showcased and a bidding process begins. The comments section is where the bidding starts, and within twenty-four hours, whoever is the highest bidder gets the piece. Depending on the piece 50-100% of the proceeds go towards TranSanta. The auction ends on Wednesday, December 23rd, and many pieces are still taking bids.
Trans issues rarely get any visibility in the media or otherwise. The holiday season can be especially rough if you are in an unwelcoming, or unsupportive environment. TranSanta and FemArchy are proof of the work that goes into helping and sustaining a sense of true community through visibility, authenticity, and most importantly giving back. We all deserve to be seen for our authentic selves. We all deserve love for that all year round.