The world of rock posters is a notoriously misogynist place, filled with endless images of half-naked women depicted in poses of supplication and subservience to their mostly male rock gods. Not surprisingly, most posters of this ilk are created by men for the male gaze, but just as obviously, there are a lot of women in the world who like rock and roll, and a few of those women even choose to create rock posters.
The work of six such artists (Alexandra Fischer, Carolyn Ferris, Junko Mizuno, Criesta Jerray, Laura Edmisten-Matranga and Casey Castille), along with the posters of a couple dozen guys, will be on view Saturday, July 20, 2013, at the Mission Masonic Center in San Francisco, when The Rock Poster Society hosts its annual summer exhibition, Rock Art By the Bay. Admission is free.
Sleigh Bells at the Warfield, April 5, 2012, by Alexandra Fischer.
This year's show poster was designed by Alexandra Fischer, who moved to the Bay Area from Germany about 10 years ago and has since created posters for everyone from Jewel and Ani DiFranco to Sleigh Bells and David Byrne. Not known as a shrinking violet, Fischer doesn't worry too much about the dominance of men in her field, but she does wonder if maybe one reason for the disparity is that most of the musicians in bands that commission rock posters are also men. As for the imagery, "Women are more fun to draw," she says. "There are more curves, and you can do more stuff with their hair." Besides, she says, the definition of offensive imagery is really a matter of personal taste. "I'm more offended by a half-naked chick in a Burger King ad than the same thing in a rock poster."
Moonalice at Slim's, April 20, 2013, by Carolyn Ferris.
After working on interactive paintings and book illustrations over the course of six years with Timothy Leary, Carolyn Ferris made her first rock poster for a Prodigy concert at the Warfield in 1997. She became a regular at Rock Poster Society shows a few years after that. Even so, some show attendees still remain confused by her presence behind an artist table. "A couple will be paging through my portfolio, pausing to talk to each other about the elements they see," says Ferris. "Then one of them will say to me, ‘I'd like to buy this one and have the artist sign it. When will he be back?' This happens at every show I do."
Faith No More at Hordern Pavilion, February 22, 2010, by Junko Mizuno.
Junko Mizuno, whose work will be at the Secret Serpents table, thinks the marginalization of women in the rock-poster world is kid's stuff compared to what passes for the status quo in her home country. "I grew up in Japan," she says, "where objectifying women is not considered a problem. The women in my art are not the demure sex dolls that most Japanese men want them to be. The frustration I had with the culture," she adds, "has definitely affected the way I draw women, but not just in my posters."
Coloma Blues Live 2012, by Criesta Jerray.
Other artists toss such baggage to the curb. "I honestly don't view the rock-poster profession as being a boy's club," says Criesta Jerray, who does business in Nevada City as Grateful Expressions and creates a lot of posters for a band called Achilles Wheel. "It really comes down to one's own passion for music. Our society as a whole is largely influenced by sexuality, so I'm not surprised women are portrayed as such in the poster and music industry. Unfortunately, I have a hard time getting away with nude images in my posters. If anything, I feel confined and restricted."
Yo La Tengo at Harlow's, May 12, 2013, by Laura Edmisten-Matranga
Then there's Laura Edmisten-Matranga, who lives and works in Sacramento. "I have never given much thought to the whole boy's club thing," she says. "It's always something I noticed, though. The fact that women are portrayed as sex objects doesn't really bother me, either," she concludes. "Images that are intriguing and subtle always win out over raunchy ones."
Rock Art By the Bay will be held 10am to 6pm on July 20, 2013, at the Mission Masonic Center in San Francisco. For more information, visit trps.org.