Lavender Girls

Do you remember the first time you watched a film that had a queer character? Were you bemused, flummoxed, intrigued, disgusted, aroused or relieved? What about the first black superhero, or female president? Black Panther became the highest grossing Marvel movie in 2018 enriching an often overlooked demographic and raising the somewhat negligent diversity of superheroes. Unfortunately the first female president in 1964’s Kisses for My President ends up resigning because of her pregnancy, and there haven’t been many movies since that break that fictional glass ceiling since - though as per usual television series habitually take up that mantle. 

Representation in entertainment matters. Where educational and institutional prejudices fail, entertainment is not bound by the same restrictions and has the opportunity to break down those barriers, opening doors to variety, acceptance, tolerance and respect. This is what Lavender Girls highlights - a series of abstract paintings that focuses on sapphic presenting films made in the 21st century. The clarity of queerness is often blurred by physical nuances such as prolonged eye contact and hand holding, but in these specifically lesbian films, there are distinct moments of acceptance - either a coming out scene, or more tragically, being outed by another character. 

Inspired by the niche novels of Nancy Garden, and the powerhouse trailblazers such as Audre Lord and Gloria Anzaldua, these paintings became an outlet for an increasingly frustrating exploration of sapphic presenting films. The depth of research it took to find a range of international, lesbian movies, covering as many genres as possible, only emphasised the lack of representation and apparent significance given by larger movie studios. As the legal rights of the LGBTQ+ community slowly improve, it’s only to be expected that mainstream films will follow suit - the symbiotic relationship should, in theory, allow for greater representation with financial, emotional and artistic benefits for both consumers and producers. There’s a large demographic that has been ignored and craves representation. 

Lavender Girls was completed early in 2021, and since then has been exhibited in two galleries around Prague, became a part of a music video in the United Kingdom, has been discussed in three podcasts from England to India and is now officially a part of Prague PRIDE this August. The success has been emotional, not only as someone who has recently made a career move towards art, but also because of the queer connections that have been formed. Discussion boards, social media and forums have all reached out wanting to know more about the paintings - actresses and directors have commended and commented on the paintings giving their support and acknowledging the importance of lesbian representation.

As the paintings suggest, there is nothing more important than realising you are not alone. 

The next step for these paintings was to find a way to make them more accessible - especially during a severely locked down winter, with very little external motivation. Deciding to create a documentary about the process of the paintings with best friend and fellow queer creator Joana Merlini, Lavender Girls went public and gained a burgeoning throng of supporters. Screenings took place in Prague’s underground art world as the restrictions slowly lifted, and we are very pleased to announce that Lavender Girls painting series will be exhibited daily at Oko! Bistro from 2nd until 8th August, and there will be two screenings of the documentaries from 6pm on 3rd and 8th August, with a Q&A afterwards.

Lavender Girls is about that specific moment of clarity, and of realisation, but not about any one particular story. It’s about all of our stories. However long it takes us; if we’ve known since childhood, or discovered it in our golden years. By focusing on the most explicit moment of ‘coming out’ in these films and gaining a time-stamp, it is possible to highlight these journeys, recognising how different it is for everyone, and celebrating the few progressive steps forward. Love should never be regulated, and only with more representation will we overcome these archaic attitudes. Lavender Girls comments on the invisibility of sapphic characters in mainstream cinema, and yet the cryptic homosexuality also allows for queer individuals to demonstrate and express their sexuality in a safe, subtle and artistic way, as the world has shown us time and time again, that it is not ready to accept us entirely in all our glory. 

Monica M.

July 9, 2021

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