By Lauren Patton

ZaPow was born from the economic downturn. Three rounds of layoffs taught me that there are no safe paths in life. Since there are no safe paths, then why not take the one you really want? In a bid to have a safe income with benefits I had worked for over a decade as a graphic designer/art director/marketer in Corporate America. I simultaneously struggled to sell my art and build an illustration career on nights and weekends. An annual trip to New York, and conferences helped me get a few gigs but it was difficult to sustain. I had the day job to be safe and spent every other waking moment pursuing my art and illustration. I was treading water but making no headway. I was adrift. I hungered for a supportive creative community of my peers.

Despite my strong credentials and skill set, I repeatedly found that my opinion was valued less than my male colleagues. Being a strong willed individual, I was beyond frustrated. Then I was laid off from my allegedly safe job as the art director for a software company. At first I was terrified. Asheville is a wonderful city but it has a terrible job market for designers. You can’t go two feet without bumping into a designer. As a result design jobs are competitive to get and low paying. I looked at a few listings and applied to a few places but I was tired of working for other people all for the illusion of security.

Frida Khalo and Emily Carr are my co-pilots

“Frieda Among Flowers” by Allison Weeks Thomas

So, with a little inspiration from trailblazing artists like Frida Khalo and Emily Carr, I changed the paradigm and created my own path. I knew that if Frida Khalo could paint through excruciating physical pain, and Emily Carr could ride out into the wilderness by herself to paint, before feminism was even a word, then I could certainly find a way to build my own profitable artistic practice. I talked to artists that I respected. I asked them, “What good experiences have you had with galleries? What bad experiences have you had? What do you wish you could add to your artistic practice? What would your ideal artist community be?” With answers in hand I began to build a business plan for my artistic journey.

Mountain Biz works empowered me with money and knowledge. With their support I was able to rent our space, build our walls and become my own boss. It was my neck on the line but I finally had a real opportunity to go for my passion. Illustration always held a special place in my heart. I wanted to build a community that served as gallery, as tribe, as sanctuary for like minded illustrator souls. Sure, we would sell art, but almost more importantly we would help each other along this crazy path called illustration. With each other’s support and input we would create ever greater works of art and always push each other to become better.

Fast forward three years — She-Pow

The Show

Zap! Pow! Wonder Girl Metallic Screen Prints By Joshua Marc Levy

Zap! Pow! Wonder Girl Metallic Screen Prints By Joshua Marc Levy

The community of artists at ZaPow inspires and amazes me every single day. I am so proud of them and humbled by their accomplishments. Artists help develop the concepts for our group shows. It was a no brainer when a member artist proposed a group show featuring strong women. The inspiration of women pioneers gave me the courage to take the leap into the unknown and create ZaPow in the first place.

Why Fiction and History?

Initially the show was proposed to feature exclusively fictional heroines. As we discussed the reasons to create the show we decided our goal was to inspire and celebrate. I believe that fiction holds some of the greatest truths but as we spoke it became clear that some artists felt that women from history were more credible as inspiring role models. In the end we decided that we would reach a broader audience with a show comprised of strong women from myth, fiction, fantasy and history.

Men and Women Working Together to Create Positive Female Role Models

ZaPow is a community of one hundred and five member artists. All members are invited to participate in our group shows. Our male brethren jumped in to the She-Pow show right along side the women artists. It was exciting to watch the private online discussions occurring between the artists about their work and subject matter for the She-Pow show. Artists like Lydia Eloff found inspiration in the real life actions of a contemporary young woman. “I do not, as a rule, paint or draw people. However, because of her exceptional bravery, intelligence, and grace, I chose to honor Malala Yousafszai for the She-Pow show.” said ZaPow artist Lydia Eloff.

Some artists have drawn inspiration from current Pop Culture. “I wanted to arrange for the two lead women of the year’s biggest action movies to talk shop. It just happens they’re both from comic books, which is my specialty,” said ZaPow Artist Gregory Dickens.

Amber Duntley wove traditional media with contemporary iconography to create her She-Pow Women. “Needlecrafts have long been seen as a feminine domain – something to sooth anxious Puritan nerves, to keep pioneer girls’ idle hands occupied. I hand-stitch these bygone women and contemporary feminist icons from pop culture together, by my laptop’s Netflix glow.” We are fortunate to have some true illustration veterans at ZaPow. Artist Joe Burleson is one such accomplished artist. “Mine was a book cover for Constance Ash’s book, Stalking Horse. I remember the main character in this series was a strong, fearless heroine. That’s how I tried to illustrate the concept and her.”

For other artists She-Pow was an opportunity to celebrate an archetype such as motherhood while others created work inspired by personal life experience. Joshua Marc Levy said that he created his She-Pow art because Wonder Woman was his first crush.

Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and many more was famously asked: “So, why do you write these strong female characters?” His response: “Because you’re still asking me that question.” His response perfectly answers why we chose to create the show She-Pow and why it was important that the work be created by artists of all genders. We need men and women to be a part of the dialog on women in media. Inclusion of strong positive female role models into the contemporary zeitgeist is a human issue not just a female one.

It is our hope that men, women, boys and girls feel empowered and inspired by the artwork created for She-Pow. The community of artists at ZaPow hopes that She-Pow will inspire some reflection and conversation about the power of positive female icons in society.


21 Battery Park Ave
Suite 101
Asheville, NC 28801

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Lauren Patton

Lauren Patton’s original paintings and prints of Snarky Ponies and Pop Art Pups are widely collected. She owns and runs ZaPow! with her husband in Asheville, North Carolina. The show She-Pow will run from December 6th to January 31st. To view more art by Lauren Patton and the artists of ZaPow visit

This entry was posted in January 2015 and tagged art, feminist art, nc women matter. Bookmark the permalink.

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