Fermented Femmes

Kat Hirsch is not from Baltimore. “I’m not even an artist,” she admitted. But this past Fall, she created a Facebook event to cultivate communication between the many talented women she met at the late 788 Gallery in Pigtown. “I was trying to think of what we could do…I thought, a book club? No, we’re not going to read books.” After much consideration, she decided that a gathering in her house would be the easiest and most enjoyable way that these creative forces could meet. The group of ten to fifteen ladies shared drinks and a meal. They had such a good time that they made it a monthly tradition. She called them the Fermented Femmes.

Today, there are 37 official Fermented Femmes. They still meet for drinks, dancing, and casual conversation, but they also function as an artists’ collective. Their first art show, …::SIRENS::…, will be held at a new space called Gallery 788 @ MAP, located at 218 West Saratoga. It opens this Thursday evening. Female artists of all types will showcase their original work.

Among those artists is photographer Theresa Keil, an original Femme and regular What Weekly contributor. Appropriately, each of her featured portraits will depict women. “It’s a place for our voice to be heard,” she said, mentioning that the number of “badass, creative women” in Baltimore is extremely high but sometimes overlooked. The city’s DIY arts scene is generally all-inclusive and open, yet “a lot of the individuals or groups you hear about are guys.” Many don’t realize that “a lot of the graffiti and street artists and MICA grads and everything…are women.”

“A lot of the time when I mention an all woman arts group to people,” Kat said, “they either ask me if it’s like this really feminist thing, or if I have some kind of agenda.” The emphasis of what Theresa calls her “brainchild,” however, is not outwardly or intentionally political. “For me, the focus has always been on community…the community aspect has always been important to me, and Baltimore is a small enough city where you can actually [create one].”

Though the idea of an all women art show is intrinsically political, a one-note show full of protest songs and paintings reminiscent of Georgia O’Keefe shouldn’t be expected. In the true spirit of the Baltimore arts, the show will include a wide variety of artists and performers. The artists are of all different ages (ranging from 20′s to 50′s),  styles, and forms of media.  Painters, photographers, musicians, poets, spoken word artists, fashion designers, and belly dancers will all be present. And the opening night is just the beginning. We can look forward to a full month of female festivities, including a Trunk Show to showcase female independent entrepreneurs, and an Artscape afterparty.

The show won’t be limited to direct associates with the Fermented Femmes, or even with Kat Hirsch. An open invitation was sent out, and any creative woman was able to contribute. “All the women who are part of the Femme group met through 788,” she said, “but this space, being bigger and with the events we wanna do” will allow the group to branch out. Eduardo Rodriguez, Gallery Director at 218 West Saratoga, previous owner of Gallery 788, and close friend of Kat, has already hosted successful nights of multimedia showcases in the new space. “The cool thing about these things is that all the women in my group knew women outside of the group,” Kat said, “so they tell who they know,” allowing for expansion.

The Fermented Femmes and artists beyond the collective are beginning to do more than just discuss art and hang it on the same walls. Real collaboration is taking root. Theresa mentioned her recent portraits of Kat, and the groups effort to shoot each others’ work in an editorial style. Rae Beth, for instance, creates unique, often wearable art from conventional feathers and beads, but also from beetles’ shells, bat carcasses, and animal skulls. Theresa gets to photograph interesting pieces, and Rae Beth gets professional pictures of her work. The relationship is symbiotic. “And I’m sure much more collaboration will happen…as a result of these shows,” said Keil. “To be honest, I’m really a much better collaborator than I am an individual!”

The prospects of further collaboration between these many women are exciting. “The women I’ve met here are not only creative, but smart and have tons of energy,” said Kat. “Even just being in the space…when people were hanging [their work] was something…the different perspectives, different media…the opportunity to meet new women and support each other” all make …::SIRENS::… highly promising.

 

Dharna Noor

Dharna is a writer based in Baltimore.

Theresa Keil

Theresa is a freelance photographer based in Baltimore