Getting to the art of Germaine Greer and Jane Goodall

You may remember I wrote about artist Samantha Louise Emery as part of my Celebrating Women series earlier this year. Her work is the artist’s answer of 50Sense – celebrating the power of women.

So I was delighted to discover she has two pieces in a new exhibition that’s opened two minutes from my day job.

Samantha is exhibiting two multimedia portraits of author and feminist Germaine Greer and renowned conservationist and animal rights activist Jane Goodall at Exhibit Here’s Art Maze exibition at Bargehouse in London’s Oxo Tower.

Both women are part of the Ikona: Mirrored Interior portrait series featuring the influential women both famous and not who have inspired Samantha throughout her life. They are strong – and beautiful – messages of female empowerment and solidarity.

“Ikona is a woman who is comfortable in her skin; who knows her self worth,” she told me earlier this year. “Someone who inspires women to be true to themselves for the betterment of mankind and future generations.”

She chose to focus on Germaine and Jane, she tells me, because they are “two powerful female pioneers who have inspired me and many other women to rise to our highest potentials”.

That is so true.

Growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, Germaine was a major force in my feminism and really made me question what it means to be a woman and how society views us.

Being a woman who sticks her head above the parapet means, of course, that she comes in for attacks and misrepresentation – her comments on rape this year being a prime example. To me, that merely reinforces the power she has.

Samantha’s portrait summons up all this power and outspokenness of Germaine. She isn’t a weak Eve being tempted by an apple, she is grabbing the serpent by the tail and embracing the knowledge. I think it’s wonderful.

No, I may not always agree with what Germaine says, but she always makes me stop and re-assess what I think. Sometimes I continue on my way, other times I change my mind and that’s how it should be. After all, if your beliefs and ideology can’t stand up to challenges, then they are built on sand.

While the portrait of Germaine is a mighty warrior that inspires me, what I see from the Jane Goodall piece is love and kindness – appropriately enough for #KindnessWeek.

Now 85, Jane has been one of the major forces in conservation and making us aware of the plight of chimpanzees. Her work has spanned more than 55 years and won her many awards, including being named a UN Messenger of Peace.

You can see that in the portrait – it is so calming and peaceful, with the chimp tenderly reaching out to Jane, who looks back with a loving expression. It is a portrait of a confident woman at ease with herself. Oh to have a bit of Jane in us.

I particularly love how Samantha includes herself in each of her paintings. “I include a self-portrait in an effort to document my own evolution as a woman and the connection I feel with each subject,” she tells me.

Oh yes, we can be our own muses…

There is more to come as Samantha is working on her next series Ikona: Wise Women – portraits of activists, journalists, filmmakers and creatives who are channelling change through their work. It sounds brilliant and I can’t wait.

For more of Samantha’s work, visit samanthalouiseemery.art. If you buy anything, you’re helping other women – 10% of revenues from Ikona: Mirrored Interior goes to Working Chance, the only recruitment consultancy for women leaving the criminal justice and care systems.

Exhibit Here’s Art Maze is on now until 17 November. See you there.

WHICH WOMEN WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO BE CELEBRATED IN ART? LEAVE ME A COMMENT BELOW AND LET ME KNOW.

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