Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Women only art exhibition at Edinburgh art Festival

Image caption Artist Jannica Honey photographed strippers

"I'm a conceptual artist and it's a concept."

These are the words of Sarah Wilson - the curator of the Only Women, Women Only art exhibition which forms part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

At the exhibition, only work by women artists is displayed - and for the first month, only women were allowed in.

The organisers are now letting men in - but for most of the month of August they were turned away.

Sarah Wilson said: "It's kind of an experiment - it's a two-month exhibition and the first month has been solely for women - men are not allowed in.

"I don't have a police badge that means I can throw them out on the street but I wanted to create a space where women can work together with other women."

Strip club

Ms Wilson explained that the entrance policy was put in place because the work on display was specific to women's experience.

She said: "A lot of the work is very personal. It's personal to the artists, it's personal to women specifically - it's just issues that men will never come across purely because of the difference between men and women.

"There are still golf clubs that exist in 2012 where women are not allowed in - let's see if this is possible as an art exhibition."

Image caption This photo forms part of the exhibition

Jannica Honey is one of the artists featured at the exhibition. She spent two months with women working in a strip club in Edinburgh - the resulting photographs tell the story of her time there.

She said: "It was quite a fascinating and emotional - and sometimes upsetting - experience but I wanted to create something which was beyond good and bad.

"I didn't want to portray the empowered stripper or the sad stripper; I wanted to show a third way where it's not so easy to say it's good or bad, or black or white".

As an artist displayed at the exhibition, Ms Honey believes letting men in for the second month is the right thing to do, but said the women-only entrance policy raised some important questions.

She said: "A lot of journalists couldn't come up because the reviewers seemed to be men.

"A lot of these kinds of conversations and chats that we've had these past three weeks have been important."

She continued: "It's not black and white - but it has provoked a lot of conversations and that's the main thing for me in life."

'Mixed reaction'

The artwork on display at Only Women, Women Only is not too controversial - Ms Honey's photographs of strippers are arguably the most shocking elements of the exhibition.

There are line drawings, traditional paintings, video installations and conceptual pieces exploring women's bodies and sexuality.

Without doubt, the most controversial element of the exhibition is its entrance policy.

Ms Wilson said the reaction to the exhibition's women-only month was mixed.

She said: "With everyone that has come in to see it, I have not had any negativity at all - it has been really well received.

"Online however, I've had people complaining and saying this has set back women's liberation years."

The exhibition opened to men on 26 August - but despite the new entrance policy Ms Wilson remained resolute in her defence of the women-only month.

She said: "It's the Edinburgh Festival - I'm creating an exhibition for women.

"People can think what they want - I don't see why I'm putting people's noses out of joint."

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