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New local zine, "Venus," tackles what it means to be femme

When Goddesses Gather

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Charleston is already home to an established art and gallery scene but this month a new art-focused zine hopes to make a splash during its debut. "Venus" is a zine (independently produced magazine) that focuses on the concept of what it means to be "femme" in modern day society and depicts this by featuring femme and gender non-conforming subjects who share their thoughts on the topic through their own words and work.

Overall, the zine is a group effort in its entirety but the concept first emerged after Jillian Cunningham and Caroline Herring talked about making a zine together for months. Herring is a photographer and Cunningham is a local Pabst Blue Ribbon representative who helped Herring get some of her work published in last year's PBR.pdf zine. After months of discussion of potential zine ideas, Herring and Cunningham finally created a plan over dinner this past September. "Jill asked me if I wanted to do the zine with her and I was like, oh my gosh, yes!" Herring says.

"'Venus' is a zine that celebrates modern day femininity and gender fluidity through photographs of badass females and non-binary individuals," Herring says. Through highlighting local friends, artists, and athletes, "Venus" brings to life an entire independent Charleston art community.

Herring and her friend Kate Fischer planned interview questions and photos and then went to work searching for people to feature while Cunningham worked to get artists, vendors, and musicians together for the zine's release. The zine was curated and designed by Matt Massara who also helped create that PBR.pdf zine.

"The goal of this project was to embody 'what is 'female' in 2019?'" Herring says. The title of the zine references the Greek goddess of the same name who represents love, sex, beauty, and victory. "Venus" begs the question "what does [the goddess Venus] look like today?"

Herring says, "It's an ode to the Greek goddess with a modern-day narrative."

Ashley Robinson is one of Caroline Herring’s femme subjects - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • Ashley Robinson is one of Caroline Herring’s femme subjects

Herring seeks to capture the emotions and expressions of her subjects in her photos. An avid photographer since age 12, Herring began more session-based photography work with individual subjects at age 14. "I started to gravitate toward fashion," she says. Much of Herring's photography work today centers around fashion. In "Venus," Herring creates a narrative of each artist using her camera.

One such artist-as-subject is Camela Guevara, a local multimedia artist who mainly focuses on embroidery, handmade wardrobes, and custom sewing. "I've been sewing for more than half of my life," she says. "I always felt like my work was a little too weird for Charleston." Guevara explains that "Venus" brings together a group of artists who have been in Charleston's underground scene and shines a spotlight on their work. "I feel like I fit in with this group of people," she says, adding, "['Venus'] is putting information out into the world that is approachable and familiar, not in a digital format."

Guevara is just one of many subjects featured, photographed, and interviewed in the zine. Beyond the physical publication, the release of "Venus" will gather other local artists and vendors together for its inaugural launch.

The zine's release celebration will take place at Skinny Dip Charleston, a local designer collective housing retail and event space. The evening also features an art exhibition, "celebrating the beautiful spectrum of femmehood."

At the event, many regional and local artists will be showcasing their work for sale alongside several vintage vendors. To round out the night, Cru Catering and Sugar Bake Shop will provide food while Niecy Blues and DJ Auntie Ayi and Rave Salon perform. Planned Parenthood will also have a booth set up and will be accepting donations all evening.

Herring hopes readers will be able to take something away from "Venus" and reflect on the role of femmehood in their own lives. "The zine personifies Venus as, not just the individuals photographed, but the viewers themselves," she says. "You are Venus. I am Venus. We are all Venus in our own ways, shapes, and forms, and we should all celebrate and embrace the Venus living inside of us."

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