“EVERY WOMAN KNOWS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT. IT’S THE PRESUMPTION THAT MAKES IT HARD, AT TIMES, FOR ANY WOMAN, IN ANY FIELD; THAT KEEPS WOMEN FROM SPEAKING UP AND FROM BEING HEARD WHEN THEY DARE; THAT CRUSHES YOUNG WOMEN INTO SILENCE BY INDICATING, THE WAY HARASSMENT ON THE STREET DOES, THAT THIS IS NOT THEIR WORLD. IT TRAINS US IN SELF DOUBT AND SELF LIMITATION JUST AS IT EXERCISES MEN’S UNSUPPORTED OVERCONFIDENCE.”
- REBECCA SOLNIT, EXCERPT FROM “MEN EXPLAIN THINGS TO ME”
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ABOUT THE ARTIST
Renee Kuharchuk is a painter and teacher living and working in the Chicagoland area. Her work captures close-up portraiture that experiments with dynamic brushwork and abstract colors. Through painting the human form, she explores themes of feminism and the human experience. As a woman battling anxiety and depression, her practice not only brings these issues to light but creates a space for self-healing and, on a broader scope, awareness of our inner battles.
Attending a small private elementary and middle school, she had never experienced a traditional art class until high school. Art immediately became a considerable part of her life. Having experienced a childhood without art, she was passionate about sharing art with young minds and providing a way for students to express themselves.
Kuharchuk received her BFA in painting and sculpture from Elmhurst University while also double majoring in Art Education to earn her professional teacher's license. She graduated from Concordia University with her MA in Education, focusing on differentiated instruction. She is also a member of Art ConnectEd and the Digital Gallery Assistant Director for the Illinois High School Art Exhibition.
Renee works as a high school visual arts teacher striving to support her students in developing their personal artistic practice. She pushes her students to create fine-quality work while exploring their artistic style and voice. She encourages her students to strive to self-assess their portfolios while learning to critique and participate in showing their work to the public.
"My work is a visual representation of my inner psyche and past experiences as I navigate what it means to be a woman in our society. My day-to-day experiences are colored with systemic sexism and stereotypes while negotiating the power struggle of gender norms. What does it mean to be a woman? Smiling, being pretty and demure, quiet and not emotional, nurturing and not confident? The challenge is knowing when to call out these injustices or face being labeled emotional, hysterical, or out of control. As a person who struggles with anxiety, facing these sexist acts and standing up for what is right can be emotionally and mentally crushing. My work gives a voice to these feelings and calls to all those who’ve struggled, been made to feel lesser because of their gender, or have been held back by an unseen force.
The process of creation helps heal these painful situations. These images personify a feeling and highlight a habit or symptom when emotionally heightened. I use up-close imagery to confront my viewers - they must deal with the image presented to them. I exaggerate the existing colors of my imagery to increase the emotional effect and heighten the movement.
The style of each piece illustrates the symptom or situation. Some works use short feathered marks that mimic meditative, repetitive movements such as yoga, prayer beads, or worry stones, while others use loose swooping lines and layered energetic strokes to exemplify anxious or painful situations. The loose and wild brushwork creates chaos and disorganization, reflecting the internal struggle.
I hope these works bring awareness to our debilitating pain and hopelessness when faced with oppression, anxiety and sexism."