Grace Ware is a queer femme artist based in regional Victoria. Her pieces display a surrealist and quirky flair, focussing on topics of feminism, gender identity, LGBTQI+ subjects and women empowerment. Her artwork explodes with bold subject matter giving attention to taboo and ‘embarrassing’ topics, taking them head-on.
Currently, Grace is a visual arts student at Federation University and dabbles in multi-faceted works from prints, textile installations, sculpture and performance.
Kaitlyn: Tell me about your practice.
Grace: For me, I look at the experiences in my life, the people and being a regional artist. I focus a lot on things that will reflect what regional women think and worry about.
Personally, growing up I felt regional women, particularly women artists, have been confined to one style of art, and don’t feel that they are able to branch outside of a traditional practice.
My process has become more of a performance, and that is a part of the art itself. I find the final outcome to be of less relevance than the process because every decision I make while creating is calculated. I consider the correlation between the meaning of the work and the materials I’m using.
I’ve been really honest and open in my work. Since my coming out piece, I’ve been focussed on making art for women. I’ve been doing a project where I survey women and conduct interviews with local female artists, and have been transferring their voices into my own work.
Social media has been playing an integral role in this project, as I’ve been conducting surveys on Instagram, and assessing how I can use social media to express a positive outlook on feminist issues, such as body positivity, that local women can take on, and allow them to feel empowered.
What backlash did you get out of your coming out piece?
I received positive backlash; the space I posted that on was a safe space. I got DMs (direct messages) from friends saying they were really proud of me for doing that. Family saw it and their response was really interesting. They don’t see social media as a platform where you can put something personal up. Some of them thought it was too much, but overall there was an interesting and quite positive response.
It was an interesting way to come out. Coming out through an artwork was an easy way to channel the
things I wanted to talk about.
Who are the local women whose social media presence inspires you, and allows you to feel connected within the art scene?
Pollyannar’s social media has always drawn me in. Looking at local women’s work and seeing them present themselves on social media makes me feel that it is a safe space for me to do that as well.
What inspired you to get into the arts?
Growing up I was always really into it. I made art that people would like. It was pleasing what other people wanted of me. Once I got into high school I really got into surrealism.
Surrealists were people who didn’t care, which inspired me to challenge myself and my aesthetics. My work now is constantly changing, I don’t want to stick to one style or way of creating.
Who are the artists who have inspired you?
[The work of] Claude Cahun (1894–1954) is a big thing that got me into feminist art. She was so ahead of her time.
How does being a woman in Gippsland impact your work?
It’s a lot harder for Gippsland women to put themselves out there. I don’t see many women doing the things I’m doing locally, but I do see it a lot in Melbourne. I felt it was important for me to do that here, even though it’s a bit taboo and weird. It’s important to have women and voices who are saying that it isn’t [weird] and are validating self-expression.
It is possible to be making art that challenges social norms, but we aren’t exposed to that here. People our age and generation are so much more exposed to topics such as women’s rights and women’s health via social media and the Internet.
For a long time, this stuff wasn’t spoken about, and we can now generate conversations around it. You don’t need to be in Melbourne to create a voice, and it’s a lot braver to do so around here because it isn’t verbalised.
What struggles do you experience as a result of your location?
There’s a lot of pressure to move to Melbourne, and this idea that there’s not much opportunity [here] and it’s harder to find it.
There’s a lot of negativity around Federation Uni as well. There’s nothing wrong with moving to Melbourne, but there’s a lot more opportunity here than what people think. Growing up there’s a lot of talk about what uni you want to go to, but there’s a lot of things to do around here locally.
What negative responses have you received as a result of your work?
With the period performance piece, I splattered red blood on it and had sanitary items stuck to a wall. That was for uni. I guess some of my lecturers aren’t used to seeing some of these works created. It was controversial, but we are always being told that we need to challenge ourselves and our art, and show these artists who are making this type of work, but I was told I needed to make sure it wasn’t too offensive or too much, that I needed to keep it subtle and timid. I didn’t really want to, I wanted to keep it how it was. Older generations of artists aren’t used to seeing these things happen and can find it quite confronting.
What would you like to change about Gippsland’s art scene?
I’d love it if it was a little bit louder — if our presence was louder, and a bit more accessible for everyone. Joh Lyons was kind of my ‘guardian angel’ once I had finished high school, and she guided me to Alt_Art. Without her, I would’ve been super lost and unsure.
I think what we’re doing now, the voices that are out here are really loud and really strong. I think it’d be really beneficial to bring more attention to the opportunities available to our local high schools because a lot of young people don’t know these collectives exist, and it’s a nice fallback and alternative to uni.
What advice do you have for young girls who want to get into the arts?
Just kind of go for it, it’s good to get criticism and don’t be afraid to get it. It’s really important to be open to what people have to say, but take your own judgement from that and learn from it. You don’t necessarily have to listen to what they say.
Being an artist can be quite isolating, so networking is awesome, if you can meet and see people making art, that can kind of get you into art. It’s super important to meet people, and social media is an amazing tool to do so. There are so many creative locals on Instagram, you just need to find them.
You can find Grace on Instagram @thewarehouse_art.