Are you a working-class womxn artist? We want to hear from you, fill in this questionnaire to help Michaela Wetherell’s reasearch.

Art Hunt 

Across Durham’s Riverwalk shopping centre this summer you will find works from Durham University’s Art Collection, pieces from regional artists and works created by local art students. 

This outdoor exhibition is an exciting mix of established and young, international and local artists, most are easy to find – some are not!
Can you spot them all? 

The Art Hunt theme for this year is linked to Sunderland-based curator Michaela Wetherell’s research around working-class womxn artists who live and work in the North East of England. The exhibition features artworks that act as an introduction and catalyst for conversation exploring narratives linked to women’s work and careers. Information gathered through Michaela’s research will ultimately be developed into a database and an exhibition.  

Working as a curator for the past 5 years in the North East, Michaela has met many working womxn artists in the North East. Many have to put their career after family commitments and working part-time jobs to fund their art practice. Michaela’s research aims to provide a long overdue retrospective of learning about women’s art practice in the North East. 

Michaela runs Pink-Collar Gallery, an online space dedicated to the promotion of underrepresented groups, using art to promote equality.

wom·xn  [wim-in].a woman (used, especially in intersectional feminism, as an alternative spelling to avoid the suggestion of sexism perceived in the sequences m-a-n and m-e-n, and to be inclusive of trans and nonbinary women)

Download the map for The Riverwalk 2021 Art Hunt below.

Hear from the artists and find out more about the artworks on display!  

2. Finola Finn  
Know Thyself, 2017 
Installation (Digital print of original artwork) 
Durham University Collection 

A throbbing red heart illuminates inside The Count’s House on Durham’s riverbank. Suspended, it grows stronger and brighter, weaker and dimmer – in time with the corresponding sound of a slow, low, abstract heartbeat. Drawing on 17th century imagery and the ancient proverb ‘Know Thyself’, this installation questions where our sense of self lies. In our hearts, our heads, or not in the body at all?  

Finola Finn is a writer and researcher who, during her time as a PhD student in history at Durham University, was successful in being commissioned for Lumiere 2017 as part of their BRILLIANT programme

3. Jane Green  
Treasured, 2021 
Mixed textiles, embroidery, patchwork, applique (Digital print of original artwork)  
Image courtesy of the artist 

“My work takes inspiration from the working-class women of the past in our region – the make do and mend spirit, patchworking fabrics of sentimental value, stitching and recycling. The imagery is taken from local museums of treasured items and the joy of making something new from discarded materials.” (artist’s own words) 

4. Lady Kitt  
89 Ways You Are Worth More To Me Like This, 2018 
Bank note and glass bottle mounted on board (Digital print of original artwork) 
Durham University Collection 

Lady Kitt is an artist, activist, performer and researcher. Portraits in Kitt’s Worth series depict influential women and non-binary people, created through cutting hearts out of £50 banknotes. This image is a portrait of Professor Charlotte Roberts, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University. By depicting inspirational women from all walks of life, Kitt hopes the Worth series will highlight the areas in which women and non-binary people are still underrepresented and discriminated against.

5. Emma Newnham (First Place Winner, Durham University Student Art Prize 2020/21) 
Charlotte Perkins Gilman with Gold Wallpaper, 2021  
Acrylic on paper (Digital print of original artwork) 
Durham University Collection 

“Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an American feminist, activist, author and theorist. Gilman’s story The Yellow Wallpaper is an account of a young woman imprisoned in her bedroom and banned from writing, working, and socialising. This was the so-called ‘rest cure’ that Gilman herself experienced as treatment for postpartum depression. The bravery to transform her own suffering at the hands of a vicious patriarchy into works that motivate societal change is what makes er heroism unmistakable. The oppressive yellow wallpaper of the story is replaced here with brilliant gold. A lotus motif symbolises regeneration and enlightenment; the flower growing up from the stagnant mud to emerge into the sun.” (artist’s own words) 

6. Mary Lou Springstead  
Rona Bot on the Mend, 2021  
Ink, coloured pencils, acrylic gouache on paper (Digital print of original artwork)  
Image courtesy of the artist  

An American artist living in Middlesbrough, Mary Lou Springstead is a narrative painter and mixed-media artist. Mary tells stories with paintings, sometimes using drawing, collage and photography. Her work encompasses socio-political commentary, autobiographical expressionism and mythological figures and symbols. 

7. Ou Huanzhang  
家 Fisherman’s Home, 1975 
Print on card 
(Digital print of original artwork) 
Durham University Collection 

Depicting a Chinese fisherman’s home and family, this image featured on a postcard. In the image, a group of women are repairing a fishing net. The picture depicts four women of varying ages, representing three generations of the family all working in the family industry. 

8. Abigail Telfer  
Normality is fading, 2021  
Digital photograph  
Student artist, Durham Sixth Form Centre 

“When considering who we are in the world and the struggles we face, I found that mental health problems can consume a person’s identity and become something considered ‘normal’ to them. Using mixed media elements and slow shutter speed photography, I created this piece to reflect the way that I have experienced mental health problems and how they consumed the way I felt and saw the world. Within modern day society, mental illness is becoming more accepted and talked about in society – however admitting that you struggle with depression or bipolar still carries a stigma. With my artwork, I hope to challenge this stigma and explore the way that mental health has shaped my life.” (artist’s own words) 

9. Mark Parham  
12 years on from the Scampi Factory, 2021 
Digital photograph  
Image courtesy of the artist 

This photographic portrait is inspired by another artwork in Durham University’s Art Collection, Kraig Wilson’s portrait of his sister, titled JoanneJoanne is part of a family series Wilson created, featuring his Mum, Dad and second sister, exploring the artist’s working-class identity in the North East. The original portrait was taken after she finished a shift at a scampi factory in Whitby. Joanne’s pose and demeanour express strength, her tattoo is on show – traditionally a past time of working-class men, rather than women – spelling out her own name as a dedication to her herself. 

Fellow photographer (and close friend of Wilson’s) Mark Parham tracked down Joanne and rephotographed her, 12 years on. Hear about how Wilson and Parham created this work here.

10. Ashe Ferguson  
Support, 2021 
Digital artwork on iPad 
Student Artist, The Girls Network 

“People in the arts industry are really strong due to how much gets thrown at them all the time, whether wanting free art or receiving negative comments. Sometimes I’ve noticed people only buy certain art if there’s provocative women in the drawing or a woman is presenting the art. I decided to make a different view, where it’s a girl just chilling and trying to get through life, she’s strong.” (artist’s own words) 

11. (Left) Bethany Stead  
Bourgie, 2021  
Digital drawing  
Image courtesy of the artist  

Bethany Stead is an artist based in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Their work explores materials and techniques associated with traditional craft and folk art, some of which have a long history of being laborious to manipulate, and assigned to people of a particular class, gender and sex. Working between clay, wood, textile and paper, Bethany is deeply intrigued in using these materials to incite conversations about the societal barriers they, and others face, due to these classifications. 

11. (Right) Abigail Owen   
All Dressed Up, 2021 
Digital photograph  
Student artist, Durham Sixth Form Centre 

“A reflection of herself applying lipstick for a party. Following a week of personal domestics, she deserves to seek herself caught in a moment.” (artist’s own words) 

12. Alana Squire   
Welcome to Britain, 2021 
Oil on board (Digital print of original artwork) 
Student artist, Durham Sixth Form Centre 

“This artwork is inspired by the idea of working-class women being tied to, and tied down by, society’s perceptions of them. There are hundreds of stereotypes surrounding the working class in Britain, particularly women, and I decided to represent this by depicting a woman on a bus, whose hair is tied in a knot to the back of her seat.” (artist’s own words)  

13. Emma Bennett   
Map Series, Durham, 2015  
Acrylic and marker pen on the antique map (Digital print of original artwork)  
Image courtesy of the artist  

Teesside based artist Emma Bennett makes paintings, drawings, sculptures and site-specific wall paintings. Her work conveys a clear connection of her fascination of colour, line, space and architecture.  Her keen interest in the design of post-war architecture stems from her childhood, growing up on a 1960’s housing estate in the North of England. 

14. Ellen Eames   
A Women’s Revolution, 2021 
Mixed medium Collage (Digital print of original artwork) 
Student artist, Durham Sixth Form Centre 

“The image shows a phone call between a group of women, they would like to kick-start a revolution for women’s power!” (artist’s own words) 

What’s your opinion?