The Nasty Women Connecticut Art Exhibition, a collection of feminist artwork from throughout the state, kicked off Thursday evening at the Institute Library on Chapel Street.
New Haven’s exhibit, which is on display through April 8, drew more than 200 attendees on its opening night. Inspired by then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump calling his opponent Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 a “nasty woman” during the third presidential debate, the showcase is part of an international series of similar exhibitions, all of which are hosted independently. Over 40 of these events have already happened or are scheduled to take place in cities ranging from Dallas to Amsterdam.
“I decided to get involved after going to the Women’s March in D.C.,” said Sarah Fritchey, curator at Artspace New Haven and one of the show’s organizers. “I was feeling so frustrated, but I was inspired by so many women banding together.”
The Elm City showcase featured more than 300 submissions, many of which were overtly political or related to specific women’s issues, Fritchey added.
The theme of female anatomy wove its way through many of the individual pieces in the exhibit. One piece scattered 1,000 unique golden vaginas around the gallery, while another featured a naked mannequin wearing a strap-on penis with the words “I identify as a man, do I get equal rights now?” on its chest. Other common references included the Women’s March on Washington and the now infamous phrase “Grab them by the p—-,” a phrase Trump said in a 2005 video recording released last October.
Debbie Hesse, an artist who contributed to the show, said she submitted her work to express political anger at the presidential administration.
The exhibition also showcased a wide range of female experiences, such as those of a woman of color, a queer woman and a disabled woman. Rosary Solimanto, a performance artist who aims to destigmatize disabilities, spent the evening wandering the gallery in a hospital gown with an IV pole. Solimanto, who suffers from disabilities invisible to the naked eye, said she hopes that her performance will change at least one person’s perception of disabilities, thereby setting off a chain reaction.
Thursday’s reception is only the start of a series of events run by the Institute Library. In the coming months, female poets and artists will return to the space for more “nasty women” themed events. Since the presidential debate on Oct. 18, the phrase has been co-opted by a multitude of feminist-leaning groups, who have made it a rallying slogan, and plastered it on everything from T-shirts to mugs.
This is not the first community-based project at the Institute Library. The venue has become a space for members of the community to share poetry, stories and prose or listen to authors and performers speak about their works. At one point the library was a meeting place for suffragists, which links the library to different generations of “nasty women,” Fritchey said.
The Institute Library was founded in 1826.