Artists: Agnieszka Budenko, Iwona Demko, Justyna Gruszczyk, Lidka Krawczyk & Wojtek Kubiak, Anka Leśniak, Małgorzata Markiewicz, Dorota Podlaska.

Curator: Agnieszka Kulazińska
Women Artists Hail Men Artists: How do we explain the title? Is it politically correct? Is it appropriate to come up with a non-feminist project on Women’s Day? 8th March provides an opportunity to approach the definition of femininity. The celebration of the International Women’s Day changes constantly. Several years ago carnations and nylon stockings, usual treats given to women by official employers during communist times, were replaced by Manifas (feminist rallies), and questions: How to re-define womanhood? What language should we be using to describe it? Those questions are raised for example in the Rosemary  Betterton`s book “Intimate distance:Women, artists and the body” (1)
Women Artists Hail Men Artists is an attempt at breaking free from the scheme of  women-oriented projects carried out abundantly on the Women’s Day. The holiday has for some time now provided an occasion to analyze the issues. Women Artists Hail Men Artists  is an attempt at reversing the direction and making a contribution to the female vision of men. On 8th March, we could offer equal chances and say something about men, women and their mutual relations. It should be so the more that the International Men’s Day, marked in Poland two days later, on 10th March, is barely observed, and even if, then without much celebration. It was inaugurated in 1999 as an answer to the hyped Women’s Day. The question is, do men actually feel endangered?
Througout the centuries, men used to occupy the priviledged stance. Women were subjugated, perceived as naturally immature and weak. Predestined to be domestic beings, they were also required to accept imposed sexual norms. Today, things have changed. Who are men in the eyes of women – partners or prey? And, of course, there is the pop-culture, quick and ready to offer its own cliches.
In European art, the woman appears as a motif, her body a subject of male contemplation and aesthetic evaluation. It was a rare case when a woman was an aware subject who created her own image through art. The figure of a woman is reflected in the mirror of male desires. What is the mirror, then, which reflects the construct of the male?
Works of Lidia Krawczyk and Wojtek Kubiak from the series Genderqueer balance upon the border between the womanly and the manly. The series comprises large format painterly portraits, sculptures and photographs of people “dressed up as gender”. The project refers to the issues stemming from the gender discourse (socio-cultural gender identity theory) and queer discourse (queer theory). The artists explain:
“Its task is to try to examine the relation between the sign and the meaning, between the image of a person and the message about the person which it conveys. The assumption of the project is to avoid clear and rigid explanations concerning definite representations. We have made sure the viewer gets trapped into their own categorizations.”
The images provoke questions about the gender. “The North American natives (...) used to list more than two sexes. Many communities have recognized namely the third, and even the fourth and the fifth sex".(2)
Works of Lidia Krawczyk and Wojtek Kubiak introduce the viewer into the world of numerous sexes: male women and female men. The world, in which traditional divisions vanish, and the construction of identity changes into a continuous process. The cultural gender ceases to be a continuity and becomes the changing, the adaptation to the imagery, the seeking for the own “self”.
Iwona Demko’s works can be associated with the art of Maria Pinińska-Bereś. The forms are similarly soft, tangible, feminine, though maybe a little more pink. Iwona Demko gives up any hints in order to speak overtly and boldly about female sexuality. In the universe created within her work, men “are not anymore capable of keeping up their patriarchic and phallocentric stance”(3) . Iwona Demko offers an ironic and tongue-in-cheek glimpse into male-female relationships and changes the stereotyped view onto women and sculptures. Her woman is active and self-conscious. It is hard to tell whether the series My trophies presents a man’s or a woman’s world. The works tell the stories of “guys” and have been sewn, that is, created in a typically female technique. Their form recalls childhood memories, and hunting trophies of the artist’s grandfather. What is essential here, though, is the emerging portrait of women they create. Different aspect is  her way of using and changing language of sculpture. Can it be said that her attitude aims to deconstuct male language of art and tries to turn it into more female one?
Małgorzata Markiewicz`s works use the most diverse materials, as she reaches for clothes, embroidery, knitting, crocheting, and combines them with raw concrete and metal constructions
In her art, she analyzes the most common daily life. What is interesting for her are traces of life and emotion, stored in the clothes and materials – the closest witnesses of our bodies. The body in her works is not a field of the cultural struggle, it is the human being itself, complete with changes and emotions. “What we have lost is the feeling of one’s own body. We don’t know where our emotions stem from, we don’t wonder about the true motifs of our actions, or why we are angry for instance.” The artist reveals and points at the traces of our daily existence: stains on table cloths, outlines of bodies left on bed sheets. She weaves a narrative about daily existence, about the simplest, often underrated “minor relations”.
In her works, Dorota Podlaska puts in use the aesthetics of pop-culture – the language of comics, adverts, Hollywood love stories. Her objects stir up the feeling of intimacy in the viewer. Library-card-sized paintings resemble of a diary, of daily notes of dreams woven after work in order to escape from the boring reality. The protagonists of her works are women – their dreams, images of men, and love. She describes the man-woman relationship from the point of view of a woman. Her works are made to fit common human needs, the scripts are stories borrowed from happy end love stories. What is the reason for anxiety then? Dorota Podlaska, while narrating about the ideal pop reality, hints at its tackiness and sentimentality. The dreams distilled from the cozy cinema interior, from the frames of a soap opera, reveal their meta-existence. Yet, is it the true emphasis of her works? It may be the case that the critical approach yields the floor to sheer human emotion: Don’t we all need to drop a tear once in a while in the darkness of a cinema?
Justyna Gruszczyk`s scent installation My pink life gives a farewell to the domination of sight, carving the space by means of scent. The installations will be composed of two intermingling “red-and-pink” scents floating in the air. The scent inclines to intimacy and to the subjectivity of reception, as everyone will associate them with their own adjectives: easy and pleasant, or hard and tacky; with love and eroticism or summer holidays. Justyna Gruszczyk relates to the stereotypical perception of women artists who assumedly have a life like a bed of roses. As the artist claims, her work is a revenge on men by inviting them to stereotypical, pink, femal world.
Anka Leśniak`s worrks attempts to deconstruct male art history. The canon of great artists and masterpieces reveals that the painting, sculpture and architecture by the 20th century had been the realm of men.  The woman at best could play the role of a muse, or rather a model subjected to a masculinist eye. Body Printing, that the artist has been realizing since 2006, attempts at re-defining the traditional categories. Works are moulds of parts of the body of the artist herself, cast in soft parchment paper. In stark contrast to Yves Klein’s Anthropometry, the model ceases to function as a tool, as she is the one to decide of her own body and its representation.
Film and photographs under the common title Top models make another step towards the re-creation of male art history. In earlier times, as well as today, women models are objects of amazement and desire. We know little about women who posed for the famous paintings, most often we do not remember who was the original model for, say, Rembrandt’s Danae or Titian’s Venus of Urbino. The names of the painters, though, we are able to recall at once. Anka Leśniak’s work writes the art history anew, reading it from the point of view of women.
Agnieszka Budenko coded the issues in her works into three letters: CKM. In Polish, CKM is an acronym for a heavy machine gun, and for the artist’s purpose it stands also for three Polish words which translate as: human, machine, culture. CKM can be also associated with a title of a Polish men’s magazine. In her works, Agnieszka Budenko reaches for stereotypically male topics: guns, missiles, war machines, battle scenes. However, she dresses them up in womanlike forms, thus re-reading them from a different perspective. Agnieszka Budenko mixes characteristics assumedly typical of male and female painting.

Women Artists Hail Men Artists is an attempt to create unusual project for the Women’s Day. Works presented will not concern only women`s problems, though, but also men, the mutual relations between the two parts, their expectations and related pop-culture imagery. The project analyse the mutual relation from point of view of culture, art history and everyday living.

Hats off, dear Ladies, we yield the floor to men and invite them all to discussion.

Agnieszka Kulazińska


1-Rosemary Betterton, Intimate distance: Woman, artists and the body. New York, London 2001, pages:79-106
2 Quoted after: Waldemar Kuligowski, "Trzecia płeć" ( "The Third Sex" ), in: Czas Kultury 3-4 2005,p.18
3 Quoted after: Agata Sulikowska-Dejena "Dotknij mnie"( " Touch me "),in: Arteon, 5/2007

Project is supported by the City of Gdańsk.

Lidia Krawczyk Wojtek Kubiak- Genderqueer

Dorota Podlaska Nigdy nie jest za późno

Anka Leśniak
Iwona Demko Moje trofea                                                        Iwona Demko Kraków
Municipal Institution of Culture