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Whitworth Art Gallery. The content of the project posed questions about women’s identity within social and cultural constructs. Charlotte Newson facilitated the project over a period of six months, through workshops and photography. The group explored identity through gender, fantasy, aging, scarring and celebrities.

Whitworth Gallery contacted The Pankhurst Centre with information about ‘Relocation’ a project to house an artwork from their collections: ‘relocating’ them out in the community.

Charlotte Newson was asked to work with women from the centre’s ‘Drop in Group’ to facilitate the discussion and selection of an artwork. The group selected a contemporary artist that would reflect contemporary images of women. A series of Tracey’s Ermin’s life drawings interested the group with their simplicity and emotive use of line and materials. The tiny figures that sprawled across an expanse of paper emphasized a sense of vulnerability and insignificance which resonated with some women in the group; opening up discussions around individual experiences and issues.

The final choice however was Lynn Hershman Leeson’s piece “Roberta Breitmore – “Roberta Construction Chart No.1”. Their were several reasons for this: the artwork itself reflected a strong bold image of a woman’s face; a disturbing portrait with demarcation lines drawn onto areas of the face, almost as thought this women had been stitched together; which immediately drew women over to the portrait to ask questions.

The content of the piece also posed questions: about women’s identity within social and cultural constructs with the use of make-up emphasizing the falseness and pliability of women’s identity. The whole notion of forming another identity fired the imagination of the women and they began to explore the many ways in which they modified themselves to cope with, survive and flourish in the multiple roles they all had. The discussion widened into a debate that focused on the moral code women felt they were under pressure to adhere to, that this code is devised by a paternal hierarchy and creates roles for women that would seem to be at odds with other; e.g. a mother and a person with sexual needs, a carer with a career, an independent ambitious woman : a person who must conform to ideas of beauty and worth that are applied to them, a sense of worthlessness with age and overall a sense of judgment and disempowerment whilst continuing to perform all these roles.

‘Each workshop aimed to build layers of a new identity for the women, planning and exploring their ideas around restrictions, disempowerment and empowerment; this was process was enabled through my extensive experience of working with vulnerable women.’

Charlotte Newson supported the women over a period of six months, through workshops and photography. The group explored identity through gender, fantasy, aging, scarring and celebrities. Charlotte Newson led and delivered the workshops and photographed the women. ‘Wigs up North’ delivered the make-up.

There are some very disturbing images which developed in the final workshop – Charlotte Newson asked the women to locate a place in their bodies that had been hurt – they worked together to visualize and record this.

There is a full evaluation report written by Charlotte Newson, available to clients she works with on request. Click on the link below to download the report as a PDF:

Evaluation Report: Whitworth Art Gallery