Part of the artwork "Chimananda" by Cara Peterson, 2017; one in the series of fifty featuring quotes by important thinkers

I started making art a year and a half ago because I felt a void of creative expression in my life. I was working a nine to five office job, and needed something that felt fully mine, and that I was excited to come home and work on at the end of each day.

I started by creating a 50-piece collection of two-toned linoleum prints with messages in collaged magazine letters. I made these prints as a colorful celebration of the strong, creative, openly vulnerable, badass women who have, and still do, contribute to the mission of intersectional gender equality and propel our nation forward. A book of the series, titled 50 Badass Quotes by Badass Women, will be released in May by Politics and Prose’s Opus Publishers.

As an active feminist and lover of words, that series was a way to engage myself in an artistic manner while immersed in images and messages of women that inspire me and feed my soul. The mission behind the project is to help others develop, or continue to develop, their own personal brand of feminism by reading some of the most insightful commentary on gender issues — including self-esteem, rape culture and sexual violence, body image, opportunities in school and the workplace, and so on. The series is a reflection of my feminist perspective, including some of the influences that made their way into my life prior to me even identifying as a feminist.

I’m still experimenting with multiple mediums, but the one I find myself most drawn to now is magazine collage on canvas. I enjoy that, like printmaking, it involves working with blocks of color that are able to take on a somewhat abstract feel (as opposed to mastering the art of detailed shading.) My art is less about capturing exactly what the subject looks like, and more about capturing the subject creatively.

“We Can Do It!” by Cara Peterson, 2017, magazine collage on canvas

My work is inspired by intersectional feminism and current-day (as well as a past) models of female empowerment. That theme is a constant in all my work. My discovery of feminism in college has been critical to understanding the world around me, and feeling secure and capable in forging my own path as a strong woman.

My newest works of magazine collage on canvas — I use glue sticks as my adhesive and Golden Semi-Gloss UV as my topcoat — are my first adventure into larger scale work. These newer pieces range from 24 X 24 inches to 36 X 48 inches. So far, I’ve completed works of Rosie the Riveter, Beyonce in her “Formation” music video, Rihanna on her “Talk That Talk” album cover, Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen with a newborn dragon on her shoulder, Wonder Woman, and Princess Leia with the words “A Women’s Place Is in the Resistance” in the background. I also made a very large piece of rounded magazine slivers collaged together to look like swirling water; several of the slivers have women in them, which is intended to create the sense that all of these women are collectively a force as strong as the ocean. (That piece, “The Wave”, was featured in The New York Times #MeToo Newsletter.)

Lastly, I appreciate the opportunity to use my art to raise money for causes near and dear to my heart, and am proud of the $5,000 I was able to raise for N Street Village, a local D.C. shelter for homeless and low-income women, by selling original pieces and posters of my Badass Quotes by Badass Women collection. I’m hoping to be able to raise similar money for Planned Parenthood with my magazine collage on canvas collection.

Caralena Peterson is a young woman with a passion for art, writing, and feminism. She started seriously engaging with the art world in early 2017, when creating a mixed-medium collection of linoleum-print-and-magazine-collage-letter pieces that are about to make their debut as a compilation book entitled 50 Badass Quotes by Badass Women (published locally, through Politics & Prose bookstore’s Opus Press). Her newest works are experiments into a bigger and more colorful style of magazine collage on canvas, though the theme of strong women and intersectional empowerment continues. She is also working on publishing her first non-fiction, The Effortless Perfection Myth, on the gender issues millennial women face while in college. Caralena graduated from Duke University in 2015 with a double major in Public Policy and Women’s/Gender Studies. She currently lives in Washington, D.C. with six badass roommates whom she loves with all her heart and admires for their fierce female-to-female support system and ability to forgive her for the little bits of collage pieces left in every corner of the house.

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