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Sam Stroozas  |  July 2, 2022  |  PRESS

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Social Nerms, mixed media on panel -  A piece from La.dy.like at the Lowertown Underground Artist Gallery.

New St. Paul art exhibit challenges what it means to be 'ladylike'

St. Paul artist Andrea Bagdon grew up listening to her grandmother imploring her to “be ladylike.” That meant being polite, obedient, demure — and not much more.

Decades later, women in positions of power from politics to business to art are expanding the definition of “ladylike” in ways Bagdon’s grandmother might never have imagined.

Bagdon and fellow St. Paul artist Spencer Gillespie examine that shifting landscape in their new Twin Cities exhibit, “La.dy.like.” It’s a deep look at femininity, gender norms, sexism — and who gets to define the terms.

“We really wanted to build up community and La.dy.like is a way for us to include other queer and feminine or female identifying artists and give them a platform and to show them that we can talk about these things,” said Gillespie. “When I think about things that are related with femininity, and feminine things, I realized they were all constructed by men and these were men telling women how to behave. That really made me question it and we are turning that on its head.”

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Relic #1, mixed media on foam -  A piece from La.dy.like at the Lowertown Underground Artist Gallery.

At a time when reproductive rights in America are being limited in a post-Roe world, Bagdon, said many people are still processing what exactly it means and how the country will move forward with restricted access to abortion nationally.

“We are still processing what happened and we all respond differently but for us,” she said. “The biggest thing we can do is to make work and keep anything we make. I believe it is an act of resistance.” Exhibits like “La.dy.like” compel guests to question what they have been taught, she added.

“I do believe that artists have the capabilities to disrupt and kind of shift culture,” Bagdon said. “If we can expose the crisis, then there can be new possibilities. I feel like with collaboration, hopefully, at least our voices can be heard.”

The exhibit works include paintings, experimental video projections and mixed media installations. Each piece was co-created by Bagdon, 38, and Gillespie, 31. The two grew up in the Twin Cities and recently returned after leaving for schooling and jobs. 

In “La.dy.like,” they say they hope to have guests — and specifically female-identifying people — better understand their relationship with femininity. The next step is to grow “La.dy.like” across the Twin Cities with other femme and queer artists.

On Saturday, Bagdon and Gillespie will host the opening reception for “La.dy.like” from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Lowertown Underground Artist Gallery. La.dy.like will open for guests through July 31 on Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and by appointment during the week.

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Andrea Bagdon, Oil on canvas -  A piece from La.dy.like at the Lowertown Underground Artist Gallery.