Gallery artist Charlotte Rodenberg recently shared some new works in progress from her current residency at the Fire Station in Doha Qatar. Read more about her process below.
As an artist, I am drawn to the power of visual storytelling and its ability to bring about social change. As an American artist living abroad, my research explores concepts of home and cultural identity. My current work seeks to explore American origin stories, indigenous influences, misinformation in media and propaganda. Within each of these areas of interest I am highlighting the history of women’s roles in society and the effects on women’s rights. Furthermore, I am interested in the perception of America through outside lenses, creating dialog and fostering social change. During my proposed residency, I aim to create work that reflects the complexity and interconnectedness of these themes, engage the community and take advantage of local resources such as libraries, museums and nature to reflect.
Last summer I had the privilege of attending the Jentel Artist Residency Program in Wyoming. In my residency application I proposed research exploring the American frontier. During this residency, I spent time at local libraries, museums and archives collecting stories, photos and sketches. Fascinated with the history of the region, in particular Wyoming’s contributions to women’s rights during frontier times, I began diving deeper into the influence of Native American cultures which have long celebrated the importance of women as leaders, healers, and keepers of wisdom. This recognition of women’s roles within indigenous societies helped lay the groundwork for the feminist movement in the United States.
In addition to the influence of Native American cultures, I examined how the media shaped the thoughts of westward migration, including the circulatories/women’s magazines, newspapers and popular literature. Between the 1800’s through the mid 1900’s, these forms of propaganda heavily influenced women’s roles in society, establishing expectations of women, from encouraging women to be meek and gentle to persuading them to travel west. Initially, first fear tactics including stories of rape, scalping and kidnapping were used to discourage westward migration. Later, realizing women were needed in the west in order to establish settlement, women were promised equality in the new land and the stereotypes around native people were revised accordingly.
In the studio at the Jentel Foundation, I pinpointed imagery to use as icons of this narrative, drawing on the cowboy gun toting culture, the homestead, native tribes and the birth of the iconic Cowgirl/American feminism. These images were painted on small sheets of archival paper and installed in clusters to represent the interconnectedness of past and present.
In the Fall of 2023, I was awarded a year-long residency at the Fire Station in Doha Qatar, where I am currently expanding on the above research. Having pinpointed several icons which trigger dialog around American cultural identity, I am creating large scale experimental compositions on wood panels, paper and mylar. The images are layered with static bars and repeated to create glitch-like distortion to represent the ways in which media distorts history. I will spend the remaining months in residency at the Firestation, completing this body of work resulting in a forthcoming exhibition and artist talk at the Fire Station Museum Gallery, in June of 2024.