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‘Peach Pie’ Raises Discussion of Feminine Southern Identity

‘Pie’ curators Grace Stott (left) and Melody Rood. (Photo by Gavin Boulware)

 

What better way to transition from spring to summer than with a big piece of peach pie?

Local curators Grace Stott and Melody Rood will open Peach Pie, the third installation of their Pie series of visual art exhibitions, at Goodyear Arts on June 7.

Each of the shows in the annual Pie series explores “the messy aspects of identity” and facilitates an exchange of ideas around different concepts of identity and community.

“Cootie Catcher” by Liliya Z (Photo by Grace Stott)

This year’s exhibit, Peach Pie, will examine the “nuanced identities of women that inhabit the South.” The subject was inspired by Stott’s and Rood’s experiences growing up in the South.

“We’re both Southern women, we’re both bi-racial women, and we know that there are a lot of misconceptions about the South and what it means to be Southern,” says Stott.

Peach Pie features work in a wide variety of media, including painting, photography, ceramics, digital media and performance from over 40 female and femme-identifying artists from throughout the southeastern United States. The diverse body of artists highlights “the voices of the South that some people forget about,” says Rood, and their work incorporates other aspects of identity such as race, sexuality, religion, mental health and economic status.

“There’s so much money in the South and so much poverty in the South — intense race relations,” Rood says. “Women who grew up being debutantes, their societal expectations look so much different than someone who grew up in Miami, or Appalachia. Some of it is conflicting with each other, but that’s identity.”

In addition to their differences, the show also explores shared experiences. Despite the fact that she feels she has a “unique and unresolved identity in society … neither Korean or American,” contributing artist Debora Koo’s work aims to “raise the thought that some experiences can only be felt and shared deeply between women.”

“Step on me for Six Months Rent” by Nicole Hernandez

Peach Pie works range from playful, like Liliya Zalevskaya’s ceramic sculptures depicting crumpled notebook paper cootie catchers, bringing back bittersweet memories of middle school recess; to sordid and sultry, as seen in Atlanta-based photographer Nicole Hernandez’s piece “Step on Me for Six Month’s Rent.” 

The photograph, showing women’s high-heeled feet stepping on a man’s bare chest, depicts “sex workers in positions of power, calling the shots,” Hernandez says. 

Hernandez’s work is influenced by her move to Atlanta after growing up in the small town of Clayton, North Carolina. “When I first arrived, I became quickly aware of how big of an impact strip culture and sex culture has on this city,” Hernandez writes in an email from Atlanta. “I love it. Everywhere I go I see women with their hair done, nails done, heads high and walking around like they own everything. That’s sexy to me. Finding my own identity and fully embracing all of me happened when I moved here.”

Artist April Marten’s work explores the dark side of the sweetness that many Southern women are raised to embody, which she defines as a “fatal femininity.”

“Dinner of White Desire” by April Marten

“I am thinking about the potential for violence embedded in feminine, Southern politeness,” Marten says, “When girls are taught always to be ‘nice,’ they are at risk. How do we teach girls to say ‘No!’ when they haven’t practiced that?”

The Pie series started when Stott, a Charlotte native, returned to the city after college in 2015 and decided to curate a show around the ideas of feminism and feminist identity as a way to reconnect with the Charlotte art community.

She hoped the show would be a way to connect with other artists and community members interested in feminism.

“Putting together a large group show like this creates a web of connection by nature,” says Stott. “This leads to unexpected friendships and collaborations. For the community at large, it opens up conversations on social issues that might be affecting them or show them a perspective they hadn’t considered.”

Stott also wanted the show to be a place where conversations were started and ideas were exchanged.

“Teliza” digital collage by Wabwila Mugala

“I had this question [about feminism and identity] and wanted to propose it, and just let the art answer it,” Stott says, “or just respond to it, even if [responses are] in conflict with one another.”

She paired up with Rood, a librarian with an academic background in gender studies, to organize and curate their first show, Cherry Pie, in 2016. Initially, the two were nervous about whether artists would respond to the call or if the community would be interested in the show. Despite those fears, they received over 100 submissions from artists all around the world, followed up by overwhelmingly positive response from the Charlotte community.

After the success of the first show, the curators decided to organize a second, called Apple Pie, in 2017 as a response to the election of Donald Trump. This exhibition was “not only an opportunity for people to voice their opinions,” says Stott, “but also to showcase their identity as an American that maybe wasn’t being represented.”

Now as Peach Pie takes us from spring into summer, the third time’s a Southern charm. 

Peach Pie opens at 7pm on June 7 at Goodyear Arts, located at 301 Camp Road, Suite 200, Charlotte. The show runs through June 28 and will be open to the public Friday nights from 6-9pm and during Goodyear Arts events.

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