From the texture of “Joy” to the fonts behind double standards, the “Soft Divide” art exhibit has it all. On display February 18th through the 25th at the Bryant Library of Long Island, the gallery approaches a noteworthy topic. Two modern day women show their perspective on the role of women in society by putting a “soft” spotlight on negative words, views, and prejudices females face in everyday life. Hayley Blomquist and Elie Hess are the two “gals” behind this project. They noticed a divide between genders in the art world and decided to attack the problem through art by putting themselves into the work.
“Happiness is conditional,” Hayley explained, “Joy is positivity in every situation.”
There’s a disconnect between art and craft that makes knitted textures on a canvas such a unique thing to consider “fine art”. Therefore, by elevating that work it just pushes and pulls with what the boundaries of art can be. Hayley wanted colors that were fun and joyful (theme words) to look at so she set up a rule to leave color until the end as a way to not limit herself to what her palette would be; she didn’t allow herself to think about it until later.
Since you have to stand out in order to fit into this world, she made large-scale pieces that grab your attention and make you look at them.
Elie’s big paintings also take after that idea. “She’s working with these large-scale paintings that are very atmospheric and beautiful colors. She also disrupts by putting these words that are typically associated with women of power but you’ll never hear a man being called catty or abrasive,” Hayley explained.
Prude is the word that started it all. Elie uses words and their associations in her piece to signify that women are essentially called all these words that men aren’t. She makes a point that men are called go-getters, strong willed, and good bosses by the same sexist society that labels women abrasive, catty, and nasty.
“It’s personal. Where do I want to be in the art world? I want to be an artist,” Elie explains, “but if there is already this inherent sexism, how am I going to break into this world that isn’t really allowing women (in).”
There’s a clear influence between the two artists; they share a studio where they often bounce ideas off each other.
James Sweeney with a friend looking at Elie’s paintings (photo by Elie)
“Mini Interview with James Sweeney, One of the Viewers” part 1:
Q: What was your first reaction from the art, what did you think of when you first saw it all?
A: I knew that there was a general theme to the exhibit, but I was pretty struck by how inviting and compelling it was just at first glance. It was almost overwhelmingly easy to look at, if that makes sense. I’m a sucker for stuff with deceptive details, so I really liked the piece that had “Catty” written out in cursive so many times over that it began to just look like a sheet of hair.