A woman sits on the floor next to a weathered wooden door patched with layers of paint that signal years of use and reuse. Her face and clothing are also layered with paint. The paint gets lighter and lighter until her face nearly fades into the wall, save for a pair of bright and determined dark eyes staring out. White mushrooms sprout from her head and legs.
The woman in the photo is Nicole Bruce who also conceived the image photographed by Katy Whitt. Bruce is a member and a founding force behind Big Kitty Crew, and her portrait is one of 12 featured in the exhibit Nine Lives: Changing Notions of Femininity Through Time.
“Femininity is resilient, strong and emotional. That’s what I hope people to see in the whole exhibit,” Bruce reveals.
Bruce’s portrait is a reflection on past personal experiences that emerged in a new light for her with #MeToo. “I included mushrooms in the image because they are able to grow in darkness,” she says, “they are resilient.”
Big Kitty Crew is a 42-member collective of artists founded in Calgary that now spreads out from coast to coast. Their artistic mediums and expressions vary widely, but this all-female collective has a particular focus on urban and contemporary art.
While Big Kitty Crew does several shows a year bringing together visual and performing art, Bruce describes Nine Lives as their “biggest show yet.”
Big Kitty Crew emerged out of the need for a supportive community for women engaged in urban arts like graffiti and hip-hop. With this show Bruce and the collective wanted to take that sense of empowerment a step further. “We felt like we wanted to really stand up for something with this show, especially with the state of feminism and queer rights in the past few years,” reflects Bruce.
The Nine Lives exhibit and the March 28 opening event, Cat Walk: Fun, Fashion, Fem, are both part of ROAR, an 11-week exploration of gender identity and queer history in the halls of Lougheed House. For Bruce and the artists involved, it is a chance to reveal through portrait and performance that “what is on the inside is not always reflected on the outside.”
It also an opportunity to further build community for Big Kitty Crew, Lougheed House and the drag performers featured in Nine Lives and Cat Walk. You can come together with the crew and celebrate resilience in our community March 27-June 9 at Lougheed House.
(Photo: Jennie Vallis in Senators Study. Katy Whitt Photography).
Vicki Stroich is a Calgary based theatre artist and arts administrator with a passion for the arts, culture and the environment.