Sculptor and feminism activist Linda Stein displays her pieces in St. Edward’s first visiting artist exhibition.

On Thursday, Sept. 5, St. Edward’s University held the opening of its first visiting artist exhibition, a piece called The Fluidity of Gender by Linda Stein. Stein is a well-known feminist artist and activist who some may recognize from the movie “Borat,” where she was interviewed on her beliefs about feminism by Sacha Baron Cohen’s character Borat. Stein works primarily as a sculptor though, using a variety of mediums to think through feminist issues such as gender norms and social inequality. 

The exhibit which is currently on display in the university’s art building addresses issues concerning strength, power, justice and courage, all within the realm of contemporary culture. The opening of the exhibition was preceded by a lecture during which Stein invited her audience members to consider how the concepts of gender and gender fluidity fit into today’s world, and what it means to be courageous and challenge these norms dictated by society. 

Most of the pieces that Stein has displayed on campus closely resemble armor and the shape of the female body. For example, Wonder Woman is a prevalent motif that Stein has incorporated into her work. In her lecture, Stein explained the particular significance of her frequent use of Wonder Woman in her pieces. Wonder Woman was the first widely recognized female superhero in a genre which was previously dominated by male characters. Most important to Stein’s message, however, is that she fought for equality but did so without killing anybody. She is a female protector who fights for the rights of both men and women alike. 

The idea of a protector is something that Stein incorporates into her work on activism. It is also a notion that she encourages each of us to consider. Bravery and courage are not qualities that require us to oppress others in order to prove our strength. Rather, they are ones which enable us to question the ways of the world and stand up to the inequalities that we encounter on a daily basis – even if this means we must go against the grain of society. 

Only by acting courageously will we ever begin to work toward true equality for all people. In order for this to happen, we must first question why society is the way it is and dare to dream of the ways through which we can make it better. This concept takes courage to sustain, since questioning patriarchy is not always an easy thing to do. It also means we must treat each and every person the same, regardless of whether or not they follow our predispositions on what is “normal.” 

This idea makes the armor-like qualities of Stein’s sculptures seem so appropriate, especially when coupled with the journey she invites her audience to take. She even encourages people to touch and try on her sculptures so that they may enjoy the full sensory experience of her art. Her pieces symbolize the spirit of the protector and the power of courage to shield oneself from the oppression of social norms.

The Fluidity of Gender will be on display in the St. Edward’s Fine Arts Gallery until Sept. 27, at which point it will move to the Bryan Gallery at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. St. Edward’s campus is one of the final stops on the exhibit’s cross-country tour to fight for gender equality.