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A Wider Lasso 

How a new art show incorporates more in its definition of wonder women.

click to enlarge "[Change the World]" by Lauren West

"[Change the World]" by Lauren West

Contrary to what DC Comics may have put forth, wonder women come in all shapes, sizes, races, weights and ability levels.

That's the starting point for the "Intersectional Wonder Womxn Art Show, Volume 2: Truthsayer," which celebrates all kinds of women in a one-night fundraiser at Studio Two Three.

Intersectionality, also known as intersectional feminism, is a branch of feminism that identifies how different aspects of social and political discrimination overlap with gender. Many factors -- class, race, religion, sexual orientation, creed, disability, age and gender -- are included when considering intersectional feminism and its myriad effects.

Social worker Chelsea Higgs Wise, who is co-chairing the event with Ngiste Abebe, says a big part of why she got involved was to give women a place for truth telling.

"Women aren't given a voice in many spaces and women are speakers of truth," Wise says. "'The Intersectional Wonder Womxn Art Show' encourages different sections of women to tell their truths and use art to do it."

Wise works in case management, often with women of color who are mothers. She suggested the truth-sayer theme as a way to encourage women to tell their truths and be brave enough to hear what other women had to say.

The artists tapped for the show are women, chosen for their diversity and what their art expressed. "We were very accepting, but made sure that the art didn't express values that would be disruptive in the space," she says. "We wanted to make sure this was a truly inclusive space for all."

Wise says space-making is important, so the art show's location, Studio Two Three, was selected because of its commitment to community and openness. It didn't hurt that there are gender-neutral bathrooms.

The beneficiary of the evening's fundraising is Safe Harbor, a nonprofit that supports people affected by domestic violence, sexual violence and human trafficking. Safe Harbor often is a resource for the women Wise works with, she says, making it another reason to be involved. Last year's event raised more than $5,500 for the nonprofit.

"Working with Safe Harbor is about making space for women not always seen as women, like trans women and nonbinary women," Wise says. "That's why we use the 'x' in Wonder Womxn. We're looking beyond a traditional definition of women."

Beyond fundraising, she says, the goal is to bring about the power of women collaborating. Artists will be able to sell work, advocates can organize and volunteers can give back. "It will demonstrate what we can do when we come together as a coalition," Wise says.

Cheyenne Varner, the creative force behind Everyday Birth, says she signed on to create the poster for the art show because bringing voice to intersectionality resonates strongly with her. "There's a lot of homogeneity in the press," she says. "I try to be intentional about creating artwork that includes those who aren't usually seen, giving the rest of us a moment in the light."

Her poster image nods to comic-book stylings and includes a paraphrased Frederick Douglass quote that says: "When a great truth starts getting around, no power on earth can imprison it or limit it or suppress it. It's going to go on until the whole world knows it." Next to the words, a black woman with dreadlocks is crouching, her body parts colored with leaves, water, wood and stone.

"I used powerful elements of the earth," Varner says, noting that people with dreads aren't typically shown. "Her stance is Wonder Woman-like, low to the ground, so her power comes from underneath and moves up her body to become strong."

Varner was Wise's first choice for the artwork. "Seeing the different textures in the piece, it's almost a visual representation of intersectionality," she says.

And while the original Wonder Woman may not have been drawn as inclusively as she could have been, at least her intentions still resonate. In Wonder Woman comic No. 170, Wonder Woman tells ace reporter Lois Lane, "If it means interfering in an ensconced, outdated system, to help just one woman … I'm willing to accept the consequences."

Intersectional Wonder Womxn Art Show, May 23, 6-8 p.m. at Studio Two Three, 3300 W. Clay St., wonderwomenartshow.com.

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