Illustration: imagining a feminist future together

A feminist future must be imagined before it can be created – and here art and illustration can play a powerful role.

Diana Carolina Rivadossi
10 March 2018
 Diana Carolina Rivadossi.

Illustration: Diana Carolina Rivadossi. All rights reserved.I still remember the illustrations that captivated me as a child; they are part of me, and they are part of my imagination. They inspired me, and maybe I even draw and paint today because of them. I often feel that I breathe and I exist because I paint.

Meanwhile, what strikes me during exhibitions is that people often find something beyond what I had intended to communicate in my artwork. A small detail, such as the expression on a character’s face, can spark a memory, inspire a feeling, or open an imagination.

"A small detail, such as the expression on a character’s face, can spark a memory, inspire a feeling, or open an imagination."

Art can support us, send us messages, or give us hope. What you see and remember in an image can stay with you, impact you, and affect the decisions you take in your life. This is the potential power of illustration for a feminist future, too – which must be imagined before it can be created.

In this piece, women are gathered around a crystal ball. They are from different cultures and backgrounds. But they are physically and emotionally close to each other, united and focused on their task of imagining a better world.

Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi.

Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi. All rights reserved.I also wanted to subvert the ancient and malicious trope of women being witches and enchantresses. Individually, the women in this illustration, as in our world, may be strong or weak – but together they can be stronger. This is magical, and a truth that we must remember.

In ancient Greece, people travelled from far away looking for their futures in the prophecies and visions of the Pythia oracles. During the middle ages, women who used herbs and created potions to help people were persecuted and murdered.

Throughout history, women have held power that has been accepted (or not); heard (or not); cast as good (or evil), but felt and lived nonetheless. These women are our past, present and future.

Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi.

Detail; Diana Carolina Rivadossi. All rights reserved.The history of art is also male-dominated. The illustrations that captivated me as a child were in books like the Jungle Book, or those of Jules Verne. What about women illustrators?

At art schools, we learn about few women artists. One exception is the famous Italian baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who was persecuted and even put on trial for having been sexually assaulted. It is difficult to be a woman in Italy today, but it was even harder before.

There are more well-known women artists now, but it is an ongoing challenge to be accepted and heard. Despite this, we continue to express ourselves, our visions, our intimacy, and our perceptions of the world through art. And sometimes, what we create inspires others.

I think illustration can be particularly impactful for young people. But I want to inspire others not because I am a painter or because I am a woman. I want to speak to the hearts of all human beings, with my own heart, as another human being. This is my feminist future.

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