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Art in Mancunia: Evie Spicer

Central to Manchester-based photographer Evie Spicer’s practice is her unrelenting passion and ability to demonstrate the power of women.

Spicer’s current project ‘Wasteland’ is inspired by the Novel ‘If Woman Rose Rooted’ by Sharon Blackie which recalls the tale of Blakie’s Native mythology. The power and strength of the Celtic goddesses was attributed to their connection to the landscape and nature. However the power of these feminine entities began to be lost when Christianity and the spiritual relationship between humanity and a monotheistic God pushed by the ruling elites of that day.

In order to address this role that women have had to conform to within society, Spicer indulges in both landscape and studio work. The role of the environment plays a central role in her work which is evident in a series of self portraits that use performance as a way to demonstrate her place in whichever setting she works within. Spicer’s images intimate between questions of how landscape has over time, become a male dominated space, so much so that women in society no longer feel safe to explore the bounds of wildernesses.

Many cultural references depict a women alone within the landscape as a ‘damsel in distress’. The tale of ‘Red Riding Hood’ is an example of how young girls are warned in children’s stories to not stray too far into the woods and remain within ‘safety’ of domestic settings. Indeed, it is the man who proceeds into the land to hunt and forage, whilst the woman is confined to the home. All of this creates the impression that a woman’s place is not within the landscape, and the femme fatal narrative that is infamously bound up in the history of children’s fiction narratives, is a stark juxtaposition to the women described in the folklore of Celtic tribes.

Photo: Evie Spicer

Through this work Spicer reclaims the landscape. Her image of dark rock stresses the sublimity of nature which presents Spicer as a smaller character within the wider setting of holism in the land. However, within the image there is no intimidation or fear; Spicer’s direct eye contact with the camera penetrates the image almost accusing us of ever doubting that she did not have a place there. Her pose, protective rather than daunted, seems to blend into the rock and they become one – Spicer is defending her right to be within the landscape as a woman. In her other landscape images, Spicer’s direct contact with trees and earth she photographs herself alongside, demonstrates a connection with nature which works to increase her presence within the space.

Her studio images have allowed her to experiment with her performance work and develop her power poses, she has just as much of a presence inside as she does within the landscape. The wrestling we see within the images of her hands reflects the idea of how she must fight to be a woman, not just within the landscape, but also a woman who works within the genre of landscape photography and portraiture. Landscape photography has been a male dominated subject for as long as it has existed and within photography, and women have always been hyper-sexualised by media and the male gaze within the subject.

Photo: Evie Spicer

Currently, Spicer is working to explore the idea ‘edge dwellers’. This discusses how we are drawn to the edges between two environments and the space between them. Speaking of this she describes the term, ‘The ecologies where the sea meets the cliff, the forest meets the meadow. I think that we are drawn to the edges of spaces because we are fascinated by them, and also because we relate to them. We are ever changing, constantly redefining ourselves.”

The project is an empowering question to females; if we reclaim the nature we are a force of, what kind of accomplishments could we achieve? The work is an accusation and a challenge, from a cultural stance and also from an artistic stance, and by embarking on this project Spicer is taking ownership of the genre and abolishing the expectations and standards that have been built up of women within the landscape and women as artists.

Photo: Evie Spicer

Photo: Evie Spicer

You can find more of Evie’s work on her website or on her instagram @espicerphoto.

Tags: art, art in mancunia, arts and culture, black and white, Evie spicer, film photography

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