Laura Callaghan: An Intersectional Feminist
by Anna Vo
Laura Callaghan is an Irish illustrator based in South East London, her focus is hand drawn illustrations using a combination of mediums, such as watercolor, indian ink, isograph pen and gouache.
If you’ve been following Laura’s work for a while, you’ll know that her subjects, themes and aesthetics barely change. With confidence and commitment, she deploys the juxtaposition between bright colors, soft pastel tones and the more somber themes in her art to express pressing social concerns like gender roles (expectations) and the representation of women in society. Laura’s work shows a talent for details and an eye for balance, as her depicted subjects are often interesting and thought-provoking despite not being illustrated according to the typical beauty standards. Exploring her creative universe, she combines elements of subtle rebelliousness, self-security and an unapologetic attitude to depict women today and to create a cast of fearless, eccentric female characters. The illustrator has gathered almost over 300,000 followers on Instagram, her ornate line work and inclusive narrative continue to build her a reputation of being relevant in today’s constantly changing social context.
Laura is also very outspoken about her beliefs and social commentary, in an interview with It’s Nice That, she commented on the issue of representation in the illustration industry, “There has been a trend over the past few years for features on “female illustrators” or panels featuring “women in comics” and while this has undoubtedly brought more attention to some creators work (I mean, I’ve been part of some of those talks and exhibitions!), it’s still categorising women creators as the "other"’ rather than viewing or celebrating their work on its own merits and on the same plain as their male counterparts. I feel like a very basic start would be to stop referring to women in the industry as "female" illustrators.”
It’s a fact: we live in a world run by men. Although the social context is ever-changing and making slow progress, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution (Women’s right to vote) was only Passed by Congress June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18, 1920. Laura wasn’t shy to remind us all that, “Intersectionality and inclusion is still a glaring problem in modern feminism so I felt it was important to represent women from a broad section of society to serve as a reminder that a voice for some, not all is not good enough.”
In 2017, Laura was commissioned by German newspaper ZEITMagazin to create a series of illustrations to accompany a written piece about a fictional nation where men were removed from the decision making process. Her work here was, more than ever, political and empowering. Although the male gaze in the entertainment and film industries has been recognized and criticised in recent years, female sexuality still hasn’t been able to be fully accepted by the general society. In her work with ZEIT Magazine, Laura decided to illustrate the perspective of women during sex despite it being a taboo subject. She mentioned that, “the sex positions, I wanted to draw those from the woman’s point of view so their partners aren’t really visible at all.” Perhaps the women in her art reflect her, or they act as an aspiration for us and the artist. They’re the women of her alternative universe, through them, we see a possibility of a world where feminism is intersectional and visible.