Posted Thursday 31 March 2022
Kingston School of Art fine art graduate Clara Lang-Ezekiel has created a collection called Remember the Ladies, inspired by remarkable women throughout history – from civil rights activists to artists, entertainers and monarchs. she is currently exhibiting her new collection in Paris. Here, she outlines the inspiration behind her work and what female representation means to her.
Though recorded history has often relegated women to footnotes, world history is overflowing with examples of exceptional women, who have had to work twice as hard to earn their place in our collective memory. With this series I honour these women and aim to spark the curiosity of the viewer to learn more about them.
I also hope to help inspire future generations to see women in a new way, so that young women don't have to feel the burden of always being the first, and young men do not see strong women as the exception. The most exciting part of creating this series has been the interactions surrounding it. Showing and discussing my work is always a pleasure, but I've been particularly humbled to share these portraits with the families of some of the women I feature.
I was also lucky enough to display my portrait of the world-renowned African-American performer and activist Josephine Baker at a gala at the Residence of the American Ambassador in Paris the night before her pantheonisation, in the presence of most of her surviving family, alongside several artists I admire who have also honoured Josephine Baker in their artwork.
My art practice is centered around underrepresented histories, most notably women's history, so I see the month of March as an opportunity to share my work and highlight all the amazing stories I discover throughout the year, at a time when public interest in these types of stories is heightened.
The women who inspire my artwork
The list of women who inspire me is already a long one and grows every day, but I do have a couple of favourites, including Queen Nzinga of Angola, who fought for independence in the 17th century. I regularly quote French feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir, and with this current series I've finally been able to honour the amazing inventor Hedy Lamarr, the artistic genius of Camille Claudel - as well as helping correct the terrible way her story's been told - and I've also discovered Victoria Woodhull, an American leader of the women's suffrage movement, who I'm now fascinated by. I also have a soft spot for women resistance fighters in the Second World War - Nancy Wake, Virginia Hall, Krystina Skarbek, Simone Segouin and Rose Valland.
Reflections and advice for young female creatives
Kingston School of Art was the last stop for me on a long road to finding myself in my art practice, and I think the people I met there, Faculty staff, technicians, and students alike, helped me tie together all the elements I wanted to work with into a cohesive art practice.
Kingston School of Art's thinking through making ethos really represents my approach to art and learning. I have particularly fond memories of working in the printmaking workshop during the quiet summers. My best advice to young female artists is to surround yourself with other women. Make friends with other women artists, study women artists that have come before you, read what women artists have written about their work and read feminist texts.
I suggest starting with the introduction to Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex, and looking at the work of the Guerrilla Girls. Men are often presented as the norm, don't let yourself get used to that. Build yourself a world where you are equally engaged with male and female artists, even if you have to look a little harder for the women.