September 29, 2020

BY WHITNEY SOUTH

This is the last of a four-part series on geek girl culture in Waterloo Region.

At first glance, the painting on the wall appears to be Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, depicting the goddess Venus, having emerged from the sea as a fully-grown woman, arriving at the seashore. On closer inspection though, a rather demure-looking Princess Peach, a character from Nintendo’s Mario franchise, has replaced Venus. She is flanked by Luigi and Mario himself, adding to the illusion of the classical masterpiece.

The brushstrokes are clean, the colours vibrant. With every detail mastered, Birth of Peach by Andrew Wilson seems every bit as impressive as the original. But is it art?

For Miroki Tong, creator and director of the G33K Art Show, it was this segregation between the fine arts industry and comic and geek art that inspired her to put together the show, which is now heading into its third year in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“I was noticing how a lot of my friends who are comic artists couldn’t apply for grants or seek funding as easily as someone who was a practising writer or fine artist,” she said. “I didn’t believe in that because I know both areas of expertise require technical skill and development like all other art forms. I created the show as an attempt to bridge that gap in the city.”

With themes that encompass everything from comics and sci-fi to fantasy and animation, geek art crosses all genres.

Tong said geek themes are no different than studies in history or politics, which have always been present in art culture just as H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds was created as a commentary on British Imperialism.

Brought up on Japanese animation since she was two, Tong said the fact that geek culture manages to divide genders was something she wasn’t aware of as a child.

“I guess I grew up with it not really understanding that it was a different culture,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was maybe in my early teens that I started seeing how segregated it was.”

Tong also said she sees more of this segregation in modern books and films whereas more classical fandom such as Star Trek and Star Wars seems to welcome an audience of just about everyone.

An annual fall event in downtown Kitchener, The G33K Art Show hopes to help dissolve the boundaries between the sexes, featuring pieces by all types of artists from Kitchener to Montreal.

According to the show’s Facebook page, their goal is to provide opportunities for emerging artists of comic, sci-fi, fantasy, animation and other alternative branches by offering a chance to showcase their work in an artistic setting.
The show also wishes to disseminate and educate the audience about the uniqueness of “geek” culture and bridges the gap between this culture and conventional art.
Becka Kinzie, an independent comic book and freelance artist, has self-published five issues of her own comic series, Cadaverific, and mainly promotes her work at comic book conventions and art shows.

For Kinzie, the G33K Art Show is another way for her to showcase her talent and bring in potential fans.

“The show is really one of a kind, there’s no other like it in Kitchener-Waterloo,” she said. “It’s a great introduction for people who are not familiar with geek culture and art.”

Inspired by everything from Saturday morning cartoons to Manga, Kinzie said she tends to forget how many people are still ignorant on the subject of girls in geek culture. The media isn’t helping.

“If it’s not the sexy gamer or comic book nerd then it’s the unsociable, unattractive freak to gawk at. Not often do people see what the real geek girl is like,” she said. “Women need to have a voice in geek culture to both educate people and to be role models for other girls and women.”

Even though both Kinzie and Tong attended the same high school, they didn’t realize how similar their interests were until they graduated and started hanging out in the same circles.

“Miroki is a great leader, marketer and promoter,” said Kinzie. “I don’t know how she does it.”

Kinzie wasn’t the only geek girl exhibiting her work at the show. According to Tong, even more women than men submit and are accepted through the show’s juried application process.

“I am proud that I try to take in artists who are very different and dynamic with their stuff,” she said. “I do also try to highlight it more as an art show than just a geek convention, which means you get a lot more creativity anddiversity that way.”

When it comes to girls breaking down the barriers of geek culture, Tong said it’s important that females consistently challenge the community so they shouldn’t feel afraid.

“It’s very important that you enjoy what you enjoy,” she said. “You definitely need to learn how to deal with the real world at the same time because the real world isn’t going to wait for you.”

For more information on the G33K Art show, visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/G33KArtShow.