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Gender Block: writing’s on the wall

Starchild Stela's radical softness

Hillary Di Menna

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Growing up in a low-income household in a small Quebec town, Starchild Stela passed the time drawing. “It was one of the few things I felt I received validation for,” they say. As a teen they started to graffiti and moved to Montreal where they have been working since. Within the last five years the artist says they have become more dedicated to their art, a mix of soft and bright colours—with feminist messaging. The artist often refers to it as “radical cute culture” or “radical softness.” Feminist messaging is incorporated in their artwork with mottoes such as, “I believe you,” and “unapologetically feminist.”

The mix of art and feminism in their work is organic and can’t be disassociated, they say. “My work comes from my heart and guts,” they add. “I started to explore feminism and anti-oppression politics while I was processing traumatic gender experiences. It helped me understand trauma in a larger context.” As their understanding of feminism evolves, so does their work. Stela’s earlier work was a nod to how much they loved 1980s and ’90s manga as a teen. Now, they say their work—with its soft, luminous imagery—reflects their personality as an adult.

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“I also want to dedicate myself a bit more to radical softness,” they say. “I would love to co-organize a radical softness art show, and maybe a pop-up gallery for a month.” They have a strong interest in community building and are excited to collaborate more with friends and other artists. Like with hosting art-making workshops as therapy for survivors of sexual violence: “I’m interested in focusing on my experiences with coping with trauma and art-making as survival.”

A former This intern, Hillary Di Menna is in her second year of the gender and women’s studies program at York University. She also maintains an online feminist resource directory, FIRE- Feminist Internet Resource Exchange.


UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 5, 2017): The subject of the story’s pronouns have been updated from the original point of publication.

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