Did you know that there is a feminist exhibition space housed in the Department of Women’s and Gender studies?
The space showcases creative work by feminist artists across the university and community. Showcased in the space until December 18th is Ali Nickerson’s “A Beer Tent For Girls.”
Beer Tent for Girls evokes the excitement of discovery – the discovery of forbidden spaces, the discovery of autonomy, and the discovery of youthful rebellion. Nickerson’s beer tent – handwoven with thick burlap twine and off-white and pink strips of fabric – hangs precariously from the ceiling and is held down temporarily by rocks collected from local gardens. A hidden drinking camp for women and girls, this musty beer tent beckons rebellion and gives the finger to the often stringently patrolled gender roles that position “good” girls in domestic settings.
Can you tell me a bit more about the inspiration behind Beer Tent for Girls?
This work addresses uneasy topics conducive to poverty, class and consumption and the roles placed on us as society in this setting. I employ personal history to address morality and illusions that stem from this destabilizing situation. This work is an extension of a project I started at a Banff Centre for the Arts residence in 2013.
A major thematic concept that I explore is escaping a lower class existence and the effect this has on a community. The central methods of escape I chose to reflect upon are military service, alcoholism and mental illness. Three generations of men from my family have served in wars ranging from WWII to Afghanistan and this theme has a particular resonance for me.
This installation is also influenced by the rural setting I grew up in. I would spend my days walking through dense forest often stumbling upon “Forbidden Spaces”. These were the spaces where men would escape to and drink. If a woman were to enter one of these spaces she would be considered to be a loose women. These gender roles are pronounced in many small communities and this work creates a space for the emancipation of such roles; a hidden drinking camp for women.
The framework for the piece is a tent modeled after a WWII camouflage net. The tent is hand-woven out of a burlap twine similar to a twine historically used. The traditional green camouflage coloured fabrics have been replaced with classically considered feminine colours, a gradient of off-white to pink. Sitting inside the tent are discarded empty beer bottle skins made of latex.
What drew you to the materials you used for this piece?
The tent is based off of a model of a WWII camo net. But instead of using army colours I used traditionally feminine colours. Creating a juxtaposition between form, colour and content.
Does any of your other work explore gender?
All of my work explores social conditions which have affected me personally and these affectations work their way into the content. So my experience growing up in a rural area where gender roles are prescribed and my personal determination to rework those roles and create a space of empowerment comes through all of my work.
What role do you think art can play in breaking down gender roles and stereotypes?
I think the arts have an important role to play in our society, as it makes us look through a unique lens, leading to new discussions, understandings and meanings in our contemporary society. So yes definitely.
How important do you think having feminist and safe-spaces for women is in regards to the art world?
I think it is important to give all people a safe space regardless of what world we roam, but that said, yes. I still think there is an imbalance regarding gender in the art world, I think it is important to recognize that and try and fix it. It is still a common idea that a women can’t have a child and a successful art career, why is this different for women than men?
What advice would you give other female-identified artists who are just starting their education, or just starting their careers?
That’s a hard one… be open minded, thoughtful and strong.
About Ali Nickerson:
Ali Nickerson is a recent graduate of the MFA program at the U of A and in 2015 was an artist in residence at the Harcourt House Gallery. To see her work, check out www.alinickerson.com
Event title: Ali Nickerson – A Beer Tent For Girls
Exhibition dates: Until December 18, 2015
Venue: Feminist Exhibition Space (1-02 Assiniboia Hall, University of Alberta)
Hours: Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Read more about the show on Ali’s website:
Read more about the feminist exhibition space on their blog: