Written by: Ljiljana Maletin Vojvodić //
Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) wrote in her essay „A Room of One’s Own“ (1929) that „a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.“ The question then arises: is this assertion still truly accurate?
In 2006, I received an unusual invitation from the organizers of the FemFest feminist festival in Zagreb. They suggested presenting my stories as wall posters and installations within the theme „A Room of One’s Own“. The concept aimed to provide a quiet and undisturbed space for female readers/users of the restroom to engage with poetry and prose. Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s idea of women needing their own space for creativity, the restroom, by definition, guarantees privacy. I agreed, and my early short stories adorned the restroom walls. This experience, along with my artistic endeavors in various residencies and research projects worldwide, fueled my focus on the visibility and representation of female artists, addressing gender issues through creative strategies. „A Room of One’s Own“ became a significant part of this exploration.
The project „A WOMAN ARTIST’S ROOM OF ONE’S OWN„ explores diverse spaces—studios, residencies, libraries, cafes, and even kitchens, bedrooms, and ‘quiet rooms’—where women (artists/curators/writers) seek solitude for contemplation, reading, creation, exploration, and writing. It delves into how female artists’ workspaces shape their artistic identity. Despite diverse experiences, the common thread is the need for a physical and mental context, a symbolic „room of one’s own“ a la Virginia Woolf, addressing historical barriers limiting women in art. The term represents a space for undisturbed creation, reflecting autonomy, intellect, and creative freedom.
Laurie Rosenwald is an author, designer, painter, and educator from New York. Her illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, and Vanity Fair, among many other publications. Over her career, Laurie’s work has included animation, product design, and both online and print media for companies like The Atlantic, Bloomingdale’s, the City of Paris, Coca-Cola, Fiorucci, Ikea, JWT, Knopf, Neiman Marcus, Nickelodeon, Ogilvy, Random House, Shiseido, Sony, The Sundance Channel, Virgin, Warner Brothers, and The Whitney Museum. Her most recent book, How to Make Mistakes on Purpose, which was the subject of her TEDx Talk and is accompanied by a touring workshop of the same name, gives people a chance to “create through intentional acts of randomness − a way of working that helps individuals get unstuck and discover new skill sets“. „Inspiration has never existed for me. Every day I wake up and either write or paint something − that’s just what I do,“ says Laurie Rosenwald.
Ariane Lugeon, a Swiss native born in Biel, has been residing and working in Reykjavik, Copenhagen, and Basel. She is a self-taught artist with over 20 years of experience as a multidisciplinary artist in textile art, installation, performance, and photography. Through her art, Ariane „transforms emotional states into tangible expressions using textile fibers, creating an interactive experience with the environment“. This allows „observers to recognize and feel as though they are looking into a mirror“. Thanks to her involvement in various residency projects in countries like Sweden and Iceland, she has had the opportunity to work independently as well as in shared spaces with fellow artists. Drawing from these experiences, she underscores that, to achieve concentration and foster creativity, she needs peace.
Dutch artist Simone Hooymans received her education at the Academy of Visual Arts in Arnhem (Artez) and Breda (St. Joost). She is a visual artist, specializing in creating drawings and animations, and currently resides with her husband and two sons at the international artist residency known as KH Messen in Norway. Within the residency, she serves as a graphic designer. Through experimental animations and video installations, Simone combines hand-drawn worlds with digital techniques. Drawing inspiration from landscapes, climate change, and a constant quest for understanding the world around us, Simone Hooymans’ works explore the complex relationships between people and nature in various ways. Besides her role as a graphic designer, she is also responsible for media and communication at the residency, where her studio is located. Her daily rhythm involves a dynamic balance between family responsibilities, artistic work in the studio, and duties at the residency.
„My daily life at the residency involves a dynamic blend of family life, studio work, and contributions to the residency,“ she said. „My children are growing up amidst international artists, exposed to a variety of artistic skills. As a mother, I believe I am instilling in them an awareness of a global world and fostering a broad understanding of artistic possibilities. My family and artistic life seamlessly coexist, emphasizing that art is an integral part of our lives.“
„To dedicate time to my animations, I must remain true to myself, exercise discipline, and protect the studio time when the kids are at school. Distractions are not an option; I require complete focus,“ Simone continues. „I consider it a luxury to be constantly surrounded by intriguing artists, and engaging with them is profoundly fulfilling. The first audience for any finished animation comprises the artists residing in the residency at that moment. Their feedback and inspiration not only enrich my work but often lead to lifelong friendships.”
Illustrator, artist, and graphic designer Felicia Fortes studied art, literature, and illustration at the University of Gothenburg. She is recognized for her editorial illustrations in publications such as Dagens Nyheter, Göteborgs-Posten, Kommunalarbetaren, Tidningen Arbetet, Faktum, and Skriva. Felicia was shortlisted for the 2021 World Illustration Awards and is longlisted in 2023. As a graphic designer, well known for her work at the Gothenburg Film Festival, her wall paintings featuring girls navigating everyday relationships can be enjoyed throughout Gothenburg. Together with her husband Dragan Mitić, she runs a creative production called „Kobajagi,“ which develops scripts for film, television, and radio, designs and creates illustrations, and lectures on dramaturgy, writing, idea processing, and creative processes.
Felicia has a studio on Ringön and shares office space at Reportagebörsen with a group of freelance creators. Ringön is an area best known for its shipyard past, but in recent years exciting things have begun to happen there. Creatives and entrepreneurs of all kinds have brought a new feel to the area, and these days you’ll find everything from craft breweries to sustainable fashion pioneers.
„Ringön is a natural habitat for our work,“ can be heard among the residents of this unique district, which speaks to the harmony between creativity and the environment that Felicia has chosen.
Elizabeth Sercombe, a British writer and artist, who until her forties was working as an academic and business consultant, views her studio as a „practical necessity“, „a form of recognition“, „a poetic symbol“, and „a resistance against patriarchal norms“.
„As a poetic symbol, the studio also acts on me like the ting of the wand of the Fairy Godmother; it has a mythical power,“ Elizabeth says. „This was most noticeable when during my first residency at Konstepidemin I would be introduced to people as ‘Elizabeth, our International Guest Artist’, which over time, started to actually change my identity from ’not-an-artist’ to an artist. Of course, this would have not happened without me actually working very hard to grow as an artist, but it also enabled and fuelled it to have the identity present in this term spoken over me repeatedly, as if nourishing a poetic self and identity that I could hardly bring myself to believe was there.“
Functionally, it provides her with an undisturbed space crucial for concentration, fostering an environment that holds and intensifies her creative process. The studio also symbolizes her personal space as a woman artist, resisting societal expectations that often infringe on women’s lives. Moreover, it acts as a poetic symbol, shaping her identity and reinforcing the significance of her work. She believes that having a designated studio, particularly in a recognized artistic community like Konstepidemin, adds cultural weight to her endeavors. For Sercombe, „the studio’s material and poetic existence serves to counteract patriarchal norms“, allowing her to push artistic boundaries and create impactful work.
Vanja Larberg is a visual artist and urban planner with a keen focus on „capturing everyday moments through words and images“. Her ongoing project, „Evening Archive,“ was most recently showcased at the Bibliothek at Konstepidemin in Gothenburg.
Since 2005, she has utilized a studio space situated in an old school within the urban district of Gårda, which she shares with fellow women artists. This studio is based at Gårdaskolan, originally known as Nya Gårdaskolan, a historic school constructed between 1900 and 1901, later expanded until 1922. It is situated on Fabriksgatan in the Gårda district of Gothenburg.
In the early stages of her practice, the studio played a crucial role in creating an environment where she „felt confident in taking her work seriously“. In recent years, she has been creating most of her drawings in the kitchen at home and printing art books in a common print workshop nearby.
As a trained animator and self-taught illustrator, Maja Fjällbäck is passionate about visual storytelling and creating tangible things with her hands. Her educational background includes a degree from the University of Gotland in converging media, with a specialization in animation and experimental film, and most recently, a degree from HDK in Image and Storytelling.
„It is a continuous struggle to find time and space for my work, both physically and mentally—juggling the demands in my head and within the family. Taking my work seriously means leaving my crying son at daycare and overlooking dirty dishes and laundry,“ says Maja. Several things aid in creating mental space for her work: maintaining a formal business, having a dedicated studio, leaving home, and setting deadlines. Running a business „not only enables me to take on assignments but also legitimizes my work, making it feel tangible. Leaving home makes the process easier, and the studio provides the mental space required. I can confidently declare to myself and others, ‘I’m going to work!’ It’s also an internal battle, dispelling the myth that creativity is always enjoyable and confronting the difficulty of finding focus.“
Instead of a conclusion:
The project emphasizes the necessity of dedicated physical and mental spaces for women (artists, writers, curators, researchers, etc.) to pursue their artistic, theoretical, and curatorial endeavors without disruptions. Addressing the traditional portrayal of women in art and the marginalization of „feminine“ themes and strategies, the project aims to support diverse artistic and research practices among women. Additionally, it sheds light on the scarcity of functional and sustainable residential programs, particularly those managed by non-governmental organizations, in Serbia. The project underscores the importance of local support and increased mobility for local women in the arts, including young and marginalized groups.
Throughout history, women have often faced the perception of being the inferior „Other,“ experiencing limitations in education, financial independence, and personal spaces for thought and creation. While some argue that this has changed in modern society, differences persist across gender, geography, economics, religion, and more. Therefore, the „Own Room“ theme extends beyond gender, encompassing immigrant culture, the LGBT+ population, diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds, the art of people with disabilities, and other intersections. This prompts questions about the impact of movements like #MeToo and cancel culture on women and the practical implications of gender equality statistics.
These are the issues the project aims to explore in its next phase.
The project was made possible through the support of residential centers in Sweden and Norway, with partial funding from the City Administration for Culture in Novi Sad.