This week for Feminisits Who Totally Rock we are featuring the amazing artist Joyce Polance. Working with various mediums, she usually paints, “women naked to suggest their willingness to change and be vulnerable, while simultaneously embracing their sexuality and bodies. The women take ownership of both their femininity and their power. My objective is to challenge the viewers to question their own assumptions about strength and beauty” (from her website). Awesome, no?

1. What was it that inspired you to become a feminist?

For me, it’s more of a series of smaller things – not one event. Things like hearing about women in other countries constantly getting violated, incorrectly saying rape victims asked for it. Or the abortion debate and its surrounding issues, like the idea of people wanting to control other women’s bodies. On a personal level, I have my own journey around the messages I’ve heard in society about powerful women being labelled as bitches.  As I’ve become a more assertive adult, I’ve experienced my own conflicts about owning power vs. being nice. Sometimes, I think I am too nice to get ahead, but when I’m being direct, it’s easy to think I’m too mean.   I hate that women have to struggle with this, and I want us all to have peace around who we are.

2. What kind of work do you do?

I’m an artist.  I do large oil paintings of women.  I paint them in situations where they are becoming empowered through owning their beauty, strength and sexuality, and/or taking in support from other women.  The figures in my work are nude –  because I love painting flesh, and because I feel it shows the women as willing to be vulnerable while they embrace both a nurturing role and power.

3. What feminist issue is particularly important to you?

It’s hard to pick just one.  Right now, I have so many friends that are pregnant or who have children. They all struggle with the working at home / working away from their kids/ being home/ contributing money to the household. Those types of issues are of interest to me.  I want women to understand that these decisions are all so personal, and there isn’t a ‘right way’.   So many of us struggle with constant comparisons to others (both in body image and how we live our lives,) and I’d like to see (and have) a freedom from those comparisons. I’d like us to celebrate following our own visions without feeling like we have to sacrifice our femininity.

4. What would you like the future of feminism to look like?

I’d like the word ‘feminism’ to become almost unnecessary – meaning that a world exists wherein everyone is equal and women are treasured.  In the interim, I’d like ‘feminism’ to lose its negative connotations, (probably not possible while there are Rush Limbaughs out there, but I can dream) so women don’t feel conflicted about self-empowerment or about working on behalf of other women.  I also love all the blogs out there – it’s so cool to see the information that’s available now, and the women airing their voices.  It’s so far-reaching and yet subtle (the solitude of one’s computer) at the same time.

5. How can people get involved with your work or in touch with you?

Through my website, http://www.joycepolance.com, or email me at joyce.polance@gmail.com

6. What is your Dream for Women?

As an artist, I would like to live in a world where there are as many women in galleries and museums as men- a world where women don’t have to wonder where their work would be if they weren’t women.  In any profession, women should never have this question.  I once did a painting of a woman with a skirt made of penises.  An artist friend summed it up by asking if she needed a dick to make it in the art world.  That’s obviously a generalization, as there are wonderfully successful women in most professions, but there is still an apparent bias that applies more than it should.

7. What are the aspects of the feminist movement that you are most proud of or most ashamed of?

It’s hard to put judgment on things, particularly when I haven’t been a part of them.  I was only a baby when people were burning bras.  It was clearly right for the times.   I’m proud of so many of the strides women have made and worked so hard for. Also, while I think this is rare, I don’t support putting down men as a way to empower women.

8. Which unknown or young feminist would you like the world to know about?

I have a friend, Janet Bloch, who’s a wonderful artist.  She co-founded Woman Made Gallery in Chicago, which is a fabulous venue for women.  She paints, teaches, and consults with artists.  Years ago, she designed a fabulous T-shirt, “Her Story of Art,” featuring women artists throughout history.  Her work has changed a lot over the years.  It used to be fairly dark.  Her recent paintings can be seen at http://www.janetbloch.womanmade.net/gallery.html.