She may have a point.
As festival co-curator Arie Rain Glorie confirms: “We actually have a really diverse base of artists and a lot of women; easily 70 per cent of the artists are women, which is great because men are still often holding power in the gallery world.”
Rain Glorie’s intuition is supported by an Artnews article that last year asked 20 of the most influential and powerful women in the industry whether there was a gender bias. Their response, according to the magazine, was “a resounding ‘yes’ ”.
Adams is an Australian photographer living in New York. The Brooklyn-based artist works primarily with well-known American lifestyle brands, and is well aware that she is working in a predominantly male field.
“The photography and art world are definitely male-dominated industries,” she says. “The effect of this is that more choices are being made by men and generally with a masculine perspective and agenda. Especially in film.”
Rain Glorie says it was not a conscious decision to increase the female representation at this year’s festival, which runs from Friday to July 24.
He and co-curator Amanda Haskard “put the call out and invited artists based on artistic merit of work that we had seen before. Both Amanda and I are strong feminists.”
Among those answering the call was Lauren Dunn, an art student at the Victorian College of the Arts, who works from a shared, on-campus studio filled with piles of timber, magazines and books, fluorescent ratchet straps and lots and lots of colour.
Her fourth time exhibiting at the festival, she is unfazed by any pervading sexism in the art world.
“I like to think that determination, hard work and skill will pave my way for success in the art world,” she says, before adding: “Naive, maybe?”
For the past eight years, the festival has lit up buildings along Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street, one of Melbourne’s distinctive inner urban arts precincts, as the facades of restaurants, record shops and high-end clothing stores are transformed into mesmerizing artworks.
As well as these imposing, building-sized animations, artists also use the adjacent laneways and side streets to bring their art into the viewer’s path. The art is fleeting — it is projected from 6pm to midnight each day of the festival. Once the lights are switched off, the art ceases to exist.
“It is a community-based festival that lights up the street and really crosses the intersection between community art and contemporary art,” explains Rain Glorie.
Almost 150 artists applied to have their work displayed this year. But Rain Glorie cannot say exactly how many artists will be involved overall.
“I couldn’t even give you a figure,” he conceded. “Only because we have close to 40 sites on the actual street but then a lot of those artists go away and collaborate and there are whole groups of artists working on art works.”
Rain Glorie pointed to the work of Adams and Dunn as projections that he was particularly eager to see.
“I am excited about Luzena Adams who’s got a really amazing exhibit that is beautiful and cinematic – it’s of a red-headed woman coming down the side of the building, which will be really great.”
Adams filmed her frequent collaborator and muse Lauren Isabeau in a cold pool, with her red locks swirling underwater. Adams was concerned her piece might not make this year’s roster because Isabeau is naked.
“The nudity is very subtle, however, and is an important aspect of the work. I wanted it to be a timeless celebration of the enigma of femininity and, of course, redheads.”
“I dress up as JLo and perform the advert word for word. All the dialogue is pulled from the advert and placed onto a separate screen as text,” she says. “By dressing up as JLo, I use humour to play and highlight the language seduction techniques strategically used by advertising companies. I’m also using the work to question gender stereotypes and self-perception.”
But if flagship museums are not working quickly enough to change the gender balance, how can one modest festival in Melbourne effect change in the art world? Dunn credits Rain Glorie and Haskard for taking a stand.
“Clearly Amanda and Arie are actively addressing the male-dominated art world,” she says. “It’s very exciting, and I feel proud to be making a contribution.”
Adams, meanwhile, is optimistic that the shift on Gertrude Street is just the start of greater inroads.
“Having so many women participating in the [festival] is great because it helps establish a precedent,” she says. “It’s refreshing and actually ironic that it wouldn’t even be commented on if the proportion was the other way. The involvement women have in any given thing simply makes it more commonplace.”