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Camille Thomas

Where are you from? What is important to you?

I am born and raised in Melbourne by my mum. She might be what is most important to me. Despite anything, she always supports me in what I do, especially my art practise. Art making is also incredibly important to me, it is what keeps my life moving, it what introduces me to different people and experiences.


Where do you source your inspiration?

I guess i source my inspiration from a lot of things; other artists, my friends, world events/ problems. But right now, my largest source of inspiration are my experiences. More specifically my experiences of being a woman, sex, love and relationships. Understanding who i am as a woman and how relationships work with me is something I enjoy exploring in my art practise. On the flip side, I constantly explore heartbreak and the problems I have had in “love”.


Can you describe your first experience with feminism, or perhaps when you first identified as a feminist?

I remember the first time I was called a feminist was in my year 9 Women at Work class. At first I agreed jokingly, but then I started reading books about feminists and feminism and I realised that yes I was a feminist, and that was awesome! Since then I’ve never stopped enjoying being a feminist and discussing it with others. Being a feminist has made me a stronger person and given me a sense of self.


Sleepover Club is about collective action and art making, but also about joining the broader conversation on feminism, how does your work translate the female experience?

My work is all about the female experience. Really that is where I draw most of my inspiration from. Currently I have only been doing work on myself, and my experiences as a woman, but I would like to start creating art and a dialogue about the wider female experience (women of colour, transgender women, women with disabilities). 


Can you expand on the themes and issues you explore in your work?

I guess you can lump the issues of the female experience I explore into the two categories: my experiences as a woman and love/relationships. Because I work from my own experiences, my work is ever evolving and changing. Mainly right now a lot of my work is about my acceptance of periods and body hair.

Periods are still so taboo in most cultures and so I really only get two reactions from my work on these issues. People either think its really cool or are really weirded out by it. I believe that periods shouldn’t stigmatised, cause its just like sweating. So I think what I’m really trying to fight in my work, is this idea that anything to do with women and/or vaginas is inherently sexual. I am trying to make people just see periods as a normal bodily function.

Body hair, is still a really fresh idea I’ve been exploring, I only grew all my hair back about a year ago, after endless years removing it for others. However I’ve only really started to realise people see it as some kind of political statement (which for me it isn’t). Young men I know find it especially fascinating, when like periods we should just see it as a normal thing. In the end I just think that people should be able to have as little or as much body hair as they like. If it’s not your body, it’s not really something for you to dictate. Thats what I am trying to convey when I’m exploring the issues of body hair.

Love/ relationships is my other big theme, because I spend a lot of time looking at how modern relationships work and how equality can be achieved within them. A lot of this exploration was inspired by my ex. Since we broke up I’ve thought a lot about how relationships work and what “love” is, as well as the social expectations associated with these (gender roles, equality, abuse, friendship, understanding others etc). This is probably my main area that I explore as well as creating art about this theme I write a lot of poetry about it. Unlike the other themes, I don’t really aim to convey a specific message, more create an open dialogue about what these things are or should be.


Have you encountered sexism in your personal experience of the art world?

Yeah, but I am sure many other female artists have had experiences worst than me. I am some what involved in the street art scene, and my friend and I would always paint together. We would always get called princesses and treated as though we were precious and couldn’t get our hands dirty, when all we ever wanted to do was paint. Another time a male artist and close family friend who I deeply admire, told me that I would never be a true artist, if I was going to have such “strong opinions”, and by doing so I was limiting myself. Which is ridiculous, cause if we look at all the amazing female artists that identify as feminists, their works are amazing and obviously “true artists”. I also feel that without feminism I would not be the artists I am, it is what inspired me to start making art.


What do you think needs to change in the art world before women are on par with men?

As the definition of feminism states, we just need to keep working towards treating people as people, equal despite gender. This is a problem that should be addressed in all working fields, especially creative ones. I think specifically to the art world we need to stop seeing the gender of an artist as the value of a pieces work. Further we need to stop criticising artists identifying as feminist artists and making feminist art. “Feminist art”, I believe is not always treated equally in the art field, more of a niche corner. We do not criticise or see Christian art any lesser for being religious, so why should feminist art be exempt from this?

I also feel the distinction between “crafts” and “fine arts” is very much driven by misogyny and the devaluation women’s labour. Art forms that have been traditionally practiced by women such as embroidery, weaving and cultural art are constantly devalued and declared as just “crafts”. Whilst the arts forms of painting and sculpture that historically have been predominantly and male industry are “fine art” (I would like to acknowledge the female artists who worked hard to achieve their greatness despite this). I find this issue rather personal as I create a lot of embroidery as part of my art practise, and it is a struggle to constantly have to validate my work to others as a legitimate form of art.


Can you share with us your favourite female artists/activists/role models?

Tracey Emin is currently my favourite artist. I have read several books about her life and her art practise and I find myself identifying with her so much. I met Casey Jenkins, and she was really lovely, her work is really fascinating. I admire how in depth her pieces go. She’s most famous for her piece where she knitted from a ball of wool inserted in to her vagina, externally so many people I’ve spoken to shook it off, but when you read about it, her explanation is so fascinating. I admire the techniques of Del Kathryn Barton as well as her exploration of motherhood. Lora Mathis and Prue Stent’s photography series “Girl, an Ongoing Series” and “Pink” I find so inspiring and beautiful.

One of my first female role models was Tavi Gevinson, I found out about her around the time I started becoming a feminist, and it was quite comforting to know other my age were passionate about feminism and letting it influence their art. For My birthday I was given “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and since reading it I have become so empowered through her wise words about why feminism is so important. She is also inspiring to me, because she presented the new view point of feminism as a Nigerian woman, I feel it was important for me to understand different viewpoints in order to become a better feminist. Also Malala Yousafzai, just everything she believes in, has achieved and stands for inspires me. 

I am sure I have more people who inspire me, but its like most things, as soon as you need to remember them you can’t.

Art: @cami11e__