Heather Whittlesey

A feminist artist with no strings attached


Heather Whittlesey is a mixed media artist that experiments with a plethora of materials and mediums.  Utilizing 3-d format as a springboard for expressing complex ideas.  All works, even paintings exhibit a mixed media quality and presence.  The art communicates ideas about biological balance and how gender and sexuality influences intrapersonal/interpersonal identity.  There is also contrasting relationship between fragility and strength, as well as a tongue in cheek humor about social and cultural inequities.  These ideas are developed from current feminist ideology.  Current models of feminism are much more sensitive and intricate then previously accepted.  Concerns of feminism today include class disparity and it's relationship with race.  The existance of a gender wage gap and a race wage gap.  The invisible and visible barriers that exist for single parents, access to responsible birth control methods and the acceptance of men being primary caretakers and domestic workers.  These are a few of the subjects at hand and because of their serious tones a light hearted approach is necessary.

Now... What is feminism?  Ok so the usual reaction I receive is one of distaste or more disgust.  Having encountered this reaction on many occasions I am inclined to ask what they think a feminist is?  Most of the answers revolved around man hating women.  This idea developed in the second wave of feminism during 1960's-1970's and media has done a great job portraying feminists as evil man hating, bra burning women which was a very small and extremist part of the movement.  Not only is this portrayal incorrect but it is also incredibly outdated, it is half a century old!  

Before I explain what movement of feminism (or rather social interactions) we are living in today let's brush up on a crash course in the history of feminism.


Feminism has roots in ancient times with many important visionaries.  Sappho the poet (d.  570 BCE), Hildegard of Bingen, a religious visionary (d.1179), Artemisia Gentileschi,
a painter (d.1656) Christine de Pisan (d.1434), Mary Wollstonecraft (d.1797), and Jane Austen, all writers (d.1817). (Martha Rampton) These women, just to name a few, are great predecessors of the modern feminist movements.

The modern feminist movement begins in the late 19th century and ends at the 21st. The first feminist movement in the US sprouted from the age of industrialism at the turn of the 19th century and was supported by a liberal and socialist agenda. The major goal of this movement was for women to obtain the right to vote.  
On July 19th and 20th 1848 there was a women’s rights convention that took place at Seneca Falls, New York where the organizers presented a Declaration of Sentiments (based on the US Declaration of Independence) that expressed inalienable rights given to men but not women.  This petition set forth the precedence to fight for the right to vote.  On August
18th 1920, over 72 years later the 19th amendment passed and women’s right to vote was secured, ending the first wave of modern feminism.

The second wave of feminism developed in context of growing opposition for the Vietnam war in the 1960’s, the civil rights movement and an increasing self awareness of sexuality.  This wave introduces protesting techniques that were radical, such as “bra
burning”, (which rarely happened, but the second wave is ultimately associated with this trope) (Feminism has a Bra Burning Myth Problem)  The exploration of sexuality and birth control methods were driving forces in this era. While the first wave was driven by middle class, educated white women, the second was
propelled by women of color.  

The third wave, born in the 1990’s has adopted the postmodern ideology current of its time and broke apart ideas of universal woman hood  and the binary notion of men vs.
women. (The Three Waves of Feminism)   The third wave identity consists of  fragmenting diversity and minority concerns.  Gender lines that were once clearly defined have been disassembled and obscured. Some topics of discussion include empowering objectification and legitimizing both sexuality and intelligence as a tool for both sexes as seen in many advertisements and
marketing techniques today.  Another is setting the precedence for fathers to become stay at home dads without facing humiliation from their surrounding communities.  This points to a deeply rooted problem of fathers not having a chance to truly bond with their child/children like mothers are encouraged to.   As a proud Capitalist nation class is by far one of the most influential factors of inequity.   Education is also a factor that will persuade audiences to decide if topics such those listed above are worth addressing and even changing.

To conclude, feminism today is about how class, race, education, sexuality and gender influence us and others.  As an artist I'm starting a conversation about how those factors influence how we behave towards each other and how our biases interacts with our own beliefs and self worth.