Artist Ellina Kevorkian on taking the academia out of art and growing up a Gilman Street punk
With her blog Violet Against Women, Los Angeles-based artist Ellina Kevorkian explores how she informs and presents her own identity through online curation. Kevorkian, who was commissioned by MCA Denver to expound upon Violet Against Women: Confronting Notions of the Feminine, a collection of live performances that she presented in Los Angeles in 2010, will be in town for tomorrow night's installment of Feminism & Co. at MCA Denver -- which focuses on feminist bloggers.
In advance of that event, Kevorkian spoke with Westword about the state of feminism in 2013, and her work as an artist in the contemporary art world.
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Westword: Where do you think we are as feminists in 2013? To me, it seems that we are fighting an uphill battle once again, maybe more than we were in the last two decades.
Ellina Kevorkian: I think it's a relevant question; it's a question I'm actually asking myself over and over and over. I think many women are. I think women of the past generation, women of my generation -- women in their 30s and 40s -- are trying to figure out what feminism means. I read this piece in Rolling Stone recently -- an interview with Stevie Nicks, about feminism and women in the '70s and where it now. And she's like, what in the fuck is going on? (Laughs.) I feel like everything is being reversed.
I understand that. I think about all of the pop-lets -- little pop stars -- of five or ten years ago: Nicky Hilton and Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, all doing those crotch shots for the media. It was so tasteless to me, for many, many reasons. But I also come from Gilman Street, like 1980s punk in Oakland. So on the other hand I'm thinking, this is amazing -- it's in your face. But it's not so simple.
I feel that we are more than ever reassessing our identities right now; life seems so fractured and fragmented. We're receiving so many streams of information from the Internet, cable television, our news sources, what we're getting in school, what we're getting from our peers. I'm personally feeling very fragmented in terms of how I process and receive it all.
I worked on an exhibition about two years ago for Pacific Standard Time (Getty Research Institute initiative that focuses on postwar art in Los Angeles) where I basically curated an exhibition of 1970s performance artists costumes and garments into a show. That was an incredible experience -- I went about finding, researching and interviewing all of these performance artists. Many of them were feminist artists. Speaking with a lot of these artists, it really got me on a roll about feminism, and how I'm perceiving it today. How I, as an artist in the contemporary art world have a sort of wincing, grating response to it.
I don't -- and I would imagine very few women artists -- want to relegate their art to the ghettoization of "feminist art." You want your work to be seen as art; you're tired of the argument of whether it is feminist or not. My experience is as relatable as your experience, period. I was thinking a lot about the women I know who are resistant to being categorized as feminists, for fear of being put into the marginalized group of feminist artists. I wear the feminist label proudly, but I don't necessarily want my work to only be understood within that context.