Turn on your television or open a magazine, and you're likely to run into someone saying something about "feminism." For Miami-based performer and artist Cat Del Buono, that's great news, but it's not really anything out of the ordinary.
"For me, it's been a hot topic for a while so I really do hope it's turning in that direction," she says, "because I think (women's issues are) just getting ridiculous, and Miami is a perfect place to have that discussion."
As an artist, Del Buono has taken to the streets to reach women and men alike with her messages of independence, self-confidence, and self-assurance in an age where most everyday stimuli would have a woman either crouching under a blanket or propped-up against a selfie stick. Del Buono wants women to understand their own power and potential.
That self-empowerment is a running theme in Del Buono's work. You may have noticed her "Stay Small, My Friends" posters pasted on the walls of high-traffic areas. The images depicted stars from Keira Knightley to Zoe Saldana who have chosen to resist industry pressures to get breast implants, celebrating their sense of worth and the example they set for the rest of us.
Taking that concept of self-love one step further, Del Buono collaborated in fellow ladies in her Refemme street art collective to invade SoBe's Lincoln Road with the Beauty Box. They dressed as doctors, lab coats and all, and ushered women into a tent for so-called private beauty consultations. They expected to be torn down, but instead, they were showered with compliments.
"It was a great experience for us, and I think for our visitors as well," she says. "They came in being a little nervous and ready to be torn apart and then left with huge smiles. Some people even left with tears."
But feminism isn't just about how a woman looks. Indeed, that issue of image obsession is in itself part of the modern female problem.
"Some of our bigger issues have to do with what Patricia Arquette said at the Oscars about equal pay," she says. "That's another one of those things that's like 'duh,' but that's still not been addressed -- maybe it has been on paper, but not really in practice."
Another hot-button issue? Domestic violence, and that's nothing Cat Del Buono is too shy to face. She's bringing her charged Voices project to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tuesday, April 14 through Sunday, April 19. The exhibition will feature interviews and insights she collected from women in domestic violence shelters across the country. She said it was an intense experience, as deeply touching as it was humanizing. It changed her.
"I went in there with an idea of what to expect, and I found that there are so many variations to what domestic violence is and to how people react to when they're in that situation," she says. "There's that whole conversation about 'why don't they just leave?' That for me was really interesting, to hear women talk about that, what they're reason was for not leaving. It's just so much more than people realize. There's so much more going on. It's not that simple."
It's a harrowing look at too many women's reality, but as with anything, there is a positive to the experience.
"I also learned from these women who did get out of their situations that they were incredibly interested in helping others," she says. The exhibit itself is a continuation of that desire to help others. By getting their stories into the world and sharing their pain and inspiration, "Voices" can help move the conversation of domestic violence forward, maybe even help someone who doesn't know where to turn.
Paired with a panel discussion Saturday, April 18, and Del Buono hopes women and men alike will join in on that discussion, as well as the conversation of equality at large.
"Even with the feminist (art projects), there were a couple males who joined in with us," she says. "Feminist means male or female. It doesn't have to just be female. It's anyone who thinks that women and men deserve the same opportunities and the same rights."
Whatever gender, whatever orientation, whatever age, creed, color, or religion, Del Buono wants humans to understand that by empowering ourselves one at a time, we can better come together to empower each other.
"People are like 'I'm a humanist,' and that's fine, but that's what feminism is," she says. "We're going to keep saying Feminist, we're going to keep talking about feminism until it's so ingrained in everybody that it's like 'duh,' and we don't need it anymore."
Stay up to date with Cat Del Buono via catdelbuono.com, and look out for the artist when she brings the Beauty Box back to Miami in May for Fashion Week.
Follow Kat Bein on Twitter @KatSaysKill.
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