Artist: Jenn Woodall
Publisher: Silver Sprocket
A review by Samantha Pearson
Toronto-based artist Jenn Woodall premiered her new art collection, GIRLS, at the 2017 Toronto Comic Arts Festival. The 40-page, full-color book is filled to the brim with illustrations of badass women and girls who won’t take anyone’s shit.
The book is now available for purchase through Silver Sprocket. Every single page could be the subject of its own thinkpiece or even the inspiration for a script.
GIRLS is, to be frank, an emotional rollercoaster. The overall feeling of empowerment that comes from perusing this book is in no way diluted by the utter joy that’s infused into each illustration. Remarkably, there is also an intense feeling of resentment and anger best represented in the way these women are drawn. Ready for battle in every illustration, they bear weapons, wear their blood like armor, and demand to be taken seriously even on the most whimsical pages.
Woodall’s use of color and background highlights women of every skin color doing regular, everyday activities: modeling, smoking, working on their laptops, marching in solidarity and resistance, eating, and fighting for their lives. GIRLS focuses on women in space, women on bikes, women sitting on the skulls of their enemies.
It focuses on the fact that even in the most mundane moments, women are always held to impossible standards that, if not upheld, put women into incredible danger.
Woodall boldly displays women at their most vulnerable and turns that vulnerability into cries of power. On one of just a few pages of text in GIRLS, which comes halfway through the book, Wooddall expresses her discomfort with binary gender roles and the socialization of women. She writes about the expectation that women grow up to be caretakers and how that isn’t a necessary fact of life.
Later, she writes about survivors. In a book full of illustrations that all depict very different women, the text hits home. As Woodall demonstrates in GIRLS, all women are survivors. We have to be — especially women of color, transwomen, women of different abilities, LGBQ women — because the world never stops trying to tear us down.
The bold, colorful ways in which Woodall explores domestic violence, street harassment, and gender expression are wonderful, if at times painful. This book hits home because it doesn’t shy away from any of the most dangerous aspects of being a woman. Nor does it shy away from the righteous fury with which most women have to live their daily lives, even when doing something as simple as going for a bike ride or taking a photo against the backdrop of a colorful brick wall.
In every illustration, it’s easy to imagine the circumstances that would lead the women in them to do what they do. Their facial expressions and hand gestures, especially, are rife with tension that leaps off the page.
The art and social commentary in Jenn Woodall’s GIRLS make it an absolute must-have. You can order a copy (and related merch, including t-shirts!), as well as Woodall’s other work, through Silver Sprocket.