Imagine a world where people felt more comfortable talking about subjects like mental health, sexuality and femininity.
In reality, Louisiana isn’t there yet. Many people grow up without formal sex education. Most women don’t learn about reproductive rights, female genitalia and sexuality until college.
During an evening chat at Ronni Bourgeois’ Spanish Town house, she and friend Tyronecia Moore wondered why this happens. The deeper their conversation got, the more they realized they weren’t the only ones who felt certain topics like masturbation, consensual sex and reclaiming your body as your own were off limits for women to discuss openly.
So they decided to channel their conversations into art. In December 2019, Bourgeois, Moore and Noelle Tollett started the art collective A Conversation Between Women. They sell calendars, postcards and prints with thought-provoking art and graphics intended to create dialogue around subjects often not talked about among women. They donate a portion of the proceeds from art sales to local nonprofit Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response, also known as STAR. The organization provides free advocacy, counseling and legal services to survivors of sexual violence.
“I’ve experienced sexual trauma, so a lot of the work is a direct reaction to it,” Bourgeois says. “STAR has been a beacon for sexual healing. I wanted to help them.”
The resulting 2020 calendar includes original art and graphics by the founders. For each month, there are empowering statements like “She’s not a freak. She’s a liberated woman.” In one illustration, a woman is depicted with sun rays coming from her head emerging from wild vines. The calendars are printed in hues of lime green and sunflower yellow, giving them a vibrant, hand-drawn, sketchbook look.
As an added element, the founders referenced a song for each month in the calendar. People can listen to the full 2020 playlist on A Conversation Between Women’s Spotify page.
“My favorite part of this is seeing people open up,” Moore says. “That makes our journey a little bit easier. Even though we carry ideas amongst each other and put it in our work, that doesn’t mean it’s easy for us to talk about it with strangers.”
The postcards and prints are just as collectable as the calendar. For the “muse” postcard collection, the artists collaborated on a joint postcard and three individually designed creations. The four postcards display their own interpretations of what the word “muse” means to them: a self-portrait, a scene inspired by a woman’s journal and two hearts blending together.
“It wasn’t always us trying to change things for everyone else,” Moore says. “It started as a form of therapy, because we had to process what we’re feeling and going through in order to even make anything.”
The collective sells its designs on Instagram, local pop-up events and at New Orleans art gallery Sidewalk Side Studio. Its ultimate goal, they say, is to create community and provide a safe space for people to connect over vulnerability and self-love, one art piece at a time.
“Representation matters,” Tollett says. “It’s important to represent different bodies, sexualities and backgrounds. We are demonstrating how connecting those different parts of each other makes you each stronger—and communally stronger, as well.”