A Year After the Election, a Photo Show Celebrates the Importance of L.A.'s Nasty Women

Not long after the November 2016 election, Anais Godard and Amanda Maciel Antunes decided to email the New York creators of Nasty Women. Described as a “global art movement,” Nasty Women was created by Roxanne Jackson and Jessamyn Fiore through a simple Facebook post. Godard and Antunes just wanted to know one thing: How could they join the L.A. chapter? Turns out, there wasn’t one. And that’s when Nasty Women L.A. started to come together.

“We both connected and we're like, OK, something's got to give, basically,” says Godard. “We feel so helpless right now. We need to do something. And that's how it all started.”

Like the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s, the Nasty Women movement has spread through individual chapters. Godard and Antunes wanted to create an L.A. iteration that shared values with the national movement, but still had its own identity. The duo decided to focus specifically on women in the arts, namely supporting creatives struggling to get by in a city that often doesn't represent them in mainstream art and entertainment. Godard and Antunes are both immigrants, which propels them to think of ways to increase visibility for communities or individuals that are often underrepresented.

Now, the chapter has organized a show that highlights worthy women and non-binary people. Opening at Chinatown's Nous Tous Gallery, “We are Nasty Women L.A.” features a series of photographs Amanda Lopez took of a dozen "nasty women," who run the gamut from a tattoo artist to a DJ to a writer to a singer. Lopez often takes photographs of women of color, and for this series she captured subjects like the participants in Las Fotos Project, a photography organization based in L.A. that focuses on teaching photography to teenage girls.

Godard and Antunes initially put out a call via social media to find people to photograph and also found out about other creators through friends. The photographs also make up a 2018 calendar that will be on sale at the exhibition; proceeds benefit Planned Parenthood. Eventually, they hope to turn the photographs into a coffee table book that includes the stories of all the people depicted.

According to the Nasty Women website, more than $181,000 have been raised for women’s rights and social services through events around the world. Godard and Antunes hope that the exhibition serves as a means for inspiration; they also plan to host talks and panels during the run of the show. The goal: to create a space where many perspectives can come together in a safe and welcoming environment.

“It's the opposite of isolation. It's the opposite of invisibility,” says Antunes. “It's something that female colleagues and women that don't even know each other can come in and exchange ideas and talk about their work — or their philosophies or their position in life. [They can] express themselves and the importance of having diversity in the space. And diversity even in not being agreeable with one another and how important it is to just bring people together.”

Tattoo artist Melissa MartellEXPAND
Tattoo artist Melissa Martell
Courtesy Nasty Women L.A.

To that end, Antunes welcomes the idea of the space holding “a little bit of tension” as many different journeys get highlighted in one exhibition and one space.

For Godard, the Women’s March felt like an especially important event because it brought so many people together in support of women’s rights. The energy of that day stuck with her and inspires her work.

“What we are trying to do with Nasty Women is, like, let's get together and remember I see you you,” says Godard. “We're here together and we're going to go through and it’s time to open your mouth. It’s time to be nasty, a little bit. It’s on us women to wake up and stop being silent on things.”

And while the phrase “nasty woman” might feel played out by now — a slogan on cheesy merch all over the internet — Godard and Antunes want to revive its immediacy.

“A lot of people use ‘nasty’ as synonymous to having an opinion,” says Godard. “It’s as if having a public opinion if you're a woman, or being independent if you're a woman, and you speak out — you are nasty. And so if this is the definition of nasty, yes, absolutely we're nasty women.”

"We Are Nasty Women," Nous Tous Gallery, 454b Jung Jing Road, Chinatown; opening reception Fri., Nov. 3, 6-10 p.m. (through Nov. 11); free. nastywomenla.org.

Disclaimer: Amanda Lopez has previously contributed photographic work for LA Weekly stories.

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