SF Chronicle highlights Femme Cartel

11 Oct

Beautiful Coverage by the San Francisco Chronicle. Read it and see the gorgeous photography on the SFChron site.

“Even after the show comes down…[Femme Cartel] keeps pumping up the artists who show with Femme Cartel.”

The women artists of Oakland whom Emily Howe surrounds herself with these days were just ghosts to her when she first moved to California five years ago.

“I had solo shows, then I was in some group shows, and it hit me – where are the ladies? How are there no ladies here?” Howe said. “I felt that in a diverse culture like San Francisco or Oakland, it was embarrassing … like did you overlook these women? Do you not know any?”

Howe, 34, decided to seek out the women herself. Her first show featuring women artists went up in Oakland in mid-2011, and Femme Cartel – the name for the loose network she’s built – has been growing ever since.

“The ladies were so excited about it, saying it was so necessary, that they’d been looking, too,” Howe said. “It was almost in motion energetically before I put it on the page.”

That energetic motion will plaster the walls of Classic Cars West through October as part of “Flaunt,” Femme Cartel’s seventh show and its second focusing on photography.

Oakland women and their glamorous, genuine style take center stage in the photographs – and in person, during the fashion show that strutted through the middle of the gallery at the exhibit’s opening Oct. 5.

Femme Cartel’s shows often turn away repeat artists in favor of emerging talents, and Howe has a soft spot for the newcomers.

“I love working with emerging artists,” she said. “They’re so lovely and thankful and full of gratitude, and they invite their friends and neighbors and their piano teacher. It’s so earnest and loving.”

Oakland photographer Felicia Kieselhorst, 26, said Femme Cartel was a big change from her experiences with Oakland’s art scene, which she called “a lot of chaos.”

“In general, besides showing with Femme Cartel, it’s really male dominated,” she said. “It was refreshing to find something so lady-positive.”

The photographs in the show use portraits and street-style photos to examine Oakland’s many faces. Kieselhorst’s contribution is a snapshot of an A’s fan decked out in green shirt, yellow bowtie and wire-thin mustache tips, grinning as the Coliseum clears out after a June game.

“As soon as I saw him, I was like, ‘Oh man, I gotta photograph this guy,’ ” she said. “He was totally into it. My standard practice is to give people a card, but he never contacted me. He doesn’t even know it’s hanging in the show.”

In another of the show’s photographs, four girls stare out from inside a car, sporting streaked hair and tattoos. Photographer Amanda Lopez, whose sister is one of the girls in the photo and knows several of the others, said her goal is always to create an honest photo, “something someone can look at and relate in my way, or just believe the photo.”

Even after the show comes down at the end of October, Howe said she keeps pumping up the artists who show with Femme Cartel.

“I’ll say to people, ‘I see your space, it’s a bar, cafe, pizzeria, and I have an endless supply of artists who want to show their work,’ ” she said. “I’m a reliable person who can produce art, and they need art right now. Usually when people need art right now, they pull on people they know, but I can change that.”

Flaunt: Oakland Style: Open noon to dusk on Saturdays. Classic Cars West, 411 26th St., Oakland. Free. Through Oct. 31. www.femmecartel.com/news-2/

Ellen Huet is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. E-mail: ehuet@sfchronicle.comTwitter: @ellenhuet

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