Natalie Raven is 29 and currently living in Plymouth, UK where this talented Live Artist has undertaken a PhD at Plymouth University and is thrilled to be conducting research about women’s lived experiences. We chose Natalie to be part of this important ASLI Magazine issue on women because we were inspired by her work and her ambition to change the way women are viewed in our world through art. Not only is this what we are all about at ASLI with our mantra being – Art can ENGAGE EDUCATE and EXPRESS our world – as a team we felt we could learn from Natalie and that her passion for change made us want to be part of it. So we invite you to find out more about this revolutionary artist:
What motivated you to deal with the subject of ‘’Female Stereotypes’ in your art?
“I think it stems from not really feeling as though I fit a female stereotype. I felt really quite uncomfortable with my self and my body for a long time growing up. The capitalist-consumer-driven-mass-media-culture I grew up in projected an image of what it meant to be female, and focused almost exclusively on attaining a certain appearance. If the way you look didn’t live up to this projected image, then you would be sold a product to help you out with that. Beauty is not externally obtainable, it is internally cultivated. I guess one of the aims of my artwork therefore, is to present an alternative female image. An image of female strength and substance.”
Tell us why you chose this submission?
“I chose to submit Body-Cloth for a couple of reasons. One is that the documentary images of this performance are powerful. Although these images can never quite reflect the physical or emotional experience of witnessing the live performance, they do capture key moments of suffering, strength and poise. What they also capture is me, a female artist, presenting my body to my audience in the way that I choose. I’m not positioned passively, beautifully lit to emphasise the contours of my body and pleasure a male gaze. I am a strong, athletic woman and I stage myself within the frame of my own performance, on my own terms.”
Why have you chosen the medium you use for your art?
“I make live art work precisely because of the live element. I feel that this enables me to connect with my audience in a more direct way than other art forms. It allows me facilitate a critical and emotional engagement with what I am exploring and expressing as a woman and an artist.”
What is your process when creating?
“My process changes all the time. Sometimes I use classical music as a prompt, sometimes it’s a book, image or prop that engages me in some way. Typically I work with materials that I have a sensory connection to. I like the physical sensation of cloth on my skin, the smell of fabric freshly cut off the roll and the look of muslin hanging or swaying in space. I gather up all of my inspirational items, take them to the studio, and play.”
Who are you influenced by? What inspired you and your art?
“I am influenced by people with a generous, inclusive spirit; people who encourage me to think, to feel, to be myself. I hope I do the same for others.”
What does feminism mean to you and do you consider yourself to be a feminist?
“I never accepted that I was a feminist growing up, as I didn’t really understand what the term meant and had heard many derogatory comments about feminists being ‘man haters’ and ‘bra burners’. I certainly didn’t want to be tarred with that brush. I found it hard to fit into the role of ‘woman’, which I understood required me to be pretty, slim, quiet, passive and frivolous. I was tall, broad, athletic, feisty and sharp. At university I read feminist texts by Luce Irigaray and Helene Cixous. Suddenly, and for the first time, I was thrust into a world in which I connected to. I felt like I had found permission to be myself.
Feminism is a movement for equality. The cause has made a lot of progress over the years, but there is still a long way to go before we all are truly are equal.
Yes, I’m a feminist, and proud.”
What made you want to get involved with our non-profit ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL mission?
“If sharing art and disseminating an alternative image of women into the ether can in some way inspire others to embrace who they are then it will have been 100% worth it.”
Do you feel women have to conform to social norms and stereotypes to be taken seriously? Do you have any experiences of this?
“I think if you are secure in yourself and who you are, with a strong network supporting you, you shouldn’t need to conform to others expectations. To be taken seriously or not lies outside of your control. Live with integrity.”
Do you think that women and men are equal in today’s societies around the world? Have you any experience of this?
“I see myself as equal to any man, and I support and encourage other women to think the same way. There has been more of a spotlight shone by the media on areas where inequality still exists, however, it still rife. Just 1 on 5 professors in UK Universities are female (Times Higher Education, 2013), and male employees are still paid almost 10% more than their female counterparts for the same level of work (BBC, 2014). Unless we all raise awareness of these instances of inequality, and ask people in positions of authority to affect changes to support full equality of the sexes, it will continue to be an issue. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and challenge how things operate in the world.”
What causes and world issues are you passionate about, campaign for, volunteer for etc…..?
“I worked in the public sector for many years supporting vulnerable young people in Leicestershire. I am most passionate about advocating for students who tend to slip through the net, those disengaged few that mainstream education just does not suit. Its really important for such young people to have access to a stimulating education, with highly skilled case workers operating on their behalf, supporting access to education, health and well-being services. Unfortunately due to recent government cuts resulting in constant redundancy and restructuring processes, many of these young people are finding that they receive less and less support. This is not okay.”
What does the statement ART SAVES LIVES mean to you and has art in anyway “saved” your life in any way?
“Art is (usually) a visual mode of expression, which transcends class, race, gender, sexuality etc. It can bring people together in a shared experience and offer a way to express yourself if you can’t find the words. Art has saved me in many ways.”
How can your art be used to create change and is this something you want for your art?
“My art is fundamentally about creating change. I create performance work because I wish to offer a space for critical consideration of the female body, and change perceptions.”
What are your goals with your art?
“When you put your name to your artwork, it is a representation of you. My goal is to deliver work that has a strong sense of integrity.”
What is your next project or piece that you are working on?
“My next performance will be developed as part of my research project at university. It will follow on directly from the performance work I submitted for ASLI, and will focus on the ways in which the female body is read or interpreted in live art practice.”
And is there anything you would like to add to your interview?
“Yes, I’d like to compel anyone reading this to think about what types of inequality they might encounter or witness in their own lives, and to be brave enough to speak out and challenge it when/where it occurs. #BeTheChange”
If you would like to know more about Artist Natalie Raven then please check out her links:
Photography by Steven Paige follow on Twitter