Women’s History Month: Heidi Phelps
BYT at large | Mar 24, 2015 | 1:30PM |

March is Women’s History Month. Throughout the month we’ll be profiling D.C. based women you should know. Amy Morse, the founder of Ideas Club, is heading the project. Today she profiles Heidi Phelps. If you’d like to suggest someone for Amy to profile, tweet at her. -ed.

Heidi Phelps is a badass artist, reader, DJ, and an appreciator of French perfumes and literature (particularly poets of the 19th and 20th Centuries). Like a meticulously woven blanket, her versatility as an artist is layered with references to personal experiences as a modern professional woman. Heidi was a longtime casual artist before she began publishing her artwork in 2012. She launched (the awesome) Wayward Broad Studio, her independently run, femme-forward art studio, specializing in portraits of iconic women from life and lore (see some from BUST Magazine, Benevolent Media). She also created Modern Love Design, a wedding stationery design company specializing in personalized, unique and contemporary layouts and illustrations (a great name choice, obviously).  She has an affinity for sewing pattern illustration of the 1950s and 1960s, Victorian fashion, historical figures, the imagery surrounding current events and pop culture.

When she is not in the studio, Heidi can occasionally be found behind a set of turntables as DJ Miss Align, hosting one of her dj nights: Girlschool or Destination Venus. Heidi collaborates with Girls Rock RI and Girls Rock DC (like the bookish and musical Megan Sheils) to design and lead workshops for girls and women on the “History of Women Who Rock” (a history of female musicians spanning the 1920’s through 2000’s, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Memphis Minnie and Big Mama Thornton to Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Deborah Harry, Patti Smith and Poison Ivy Rorschach, to the Go-Gos, Sleater Kinney, Missy Elliot and Lady Gaga and countless more). She has deejayed Girlschool and Destination Venus, that emphasize female musicians, who are so often under-represented in rock history (check out Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time“, for example, and you’ll see about 2 women on the list; there are dozens of seriously influential female guitarists that are left out).

She wants to have an impact in her community through her artwork and through encouraging women and girls to “find their voice.”  Her artwork emphasizing women in history (music or otherwise) encourages conversations about how women are depicted in mainstream culture – particularly, what aspects of women’s behavior we routinely admire or vilify. She is also passionate about promoting female musicians.

Woman She Admires

Frida Kahlo. Frida was a remarkable woman all around. She used herself as her subject matter, putting her raw physical and emotional pain onto canvas and on display. Surrealists (Andre Breton in particular) wanted to put her into the Surrealist camp, but Frida rejected that label, explaining that her work was NOT surreal; she was painting from her very real, lived existence.

Frida was a survivor. When she was given the fate of her leg amputation, Frida was quoted as saying, “Feet, what do I need them for, if I have wings to fly?” She didn’t hide the incredible pain she lived through, and used art as a way to push through the crushing setbacks life would throw her way. Heidi finds this an incredibly brave and courageous way to live.

Heidi visited Frida’s house (the Casa Azul) a few years ago when they were running an exhibition of her family photographs. Heidi was struck by the photos of Frida painting while in post-surgery recovery, in traction and in body casts. To Heidi, Frida is the epitome of strength, truth and passion; three principles that certainly embody the feminist movement.