Photo courtesy of Newsweek
When Narya Marcille graduated with a degree in fine arts from the University of Rhode Island in 2005, she never imagined people would eventually look at her art as a form of activism.
“It was always sort of impressed upon me that it was impolite to talk about politics, because you would never want to offend someone,” Marcille said.
During the 2016 election though, Marcille threw this concept out the window. “I just said I didn’t care anymore about offending people because it’s so important to speak out and I’m lucky enough to be able to speak out and so I will do so for the people that can’t,” she said.
In January of last year, Marcille sent a feminist poster she designed to a website called Pantsuit Nation where it has since been viewed more than 85,000 times. The poster she created was inspired by the Women’s March on Washington in 2017 and depicted five women standing in front of the United States Capitol, surrounded by a diverse and packed crowd, waving homemade rally signs and linking arms. The poster was shared widely on Facebook, made as iPhone lock screens, and even printed out as physical signs to be held at the march.
After the success of this first drawing, Marcille was approached by the art director of Newsweek. He commissioned a piece from her to be the cover of a special edition of their magazine. That edition focused on highlighting some of the most significant moments for women’s rights throughout history and focused on standout women from this past year that are doing important work for equality.
She was instructed to make the cover in the same sort of format as her original feminist image. The aspects of the original they asked her to keep were having five women in the center linking arms, standing in front of a government building and having them sketched in multiple bright colors surrounded by a pink sky that represented female empowerment.
The Newsweek cover features leading feminist icons Elizabeth Warren, the senior Senator from Massachusetts who has been going head to head with Trump since his election, Ellen Pao, a businesswoman and activist fighting sexism in Silicon Valley, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist promoting female education, Gina Rodriguez, a television actress and producer who fights the inequalities faced by the Latino community and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, a Nigerian novelist who writes about feminism.
Marcille was raised in a proudly liberal family and says that because of this she understood and believed in feminism from a young age. She has always been a part of the movement for equality, even just simply with mindset alone, but it wasn’t until recently that she began to actively intwine her life and career with politics and social justice.
During her time at URI, Marcille largely focused on photography and upon her graduation worked a string of semi-random jobs until making the decision alongside her husband to become a stay at home mother and start a family. They now have two sons, ages 4 and 1.
Following the inauguration of President Trump last year, the historic Women’s March on Washington was held on Jan. 21, 2017. Marcille said that two of her aunts were planning on making a journey to D.C. for the event but that she was unable to make it.
“I had a four month old at the time and there was no way I could possibly manage either taking him or leaving him behind, neither was going to work,” said Marcille. “One of my aunts suggested that I make something that they could carry, so that a part of me could be there even if I couldn’t be there in person.”
After deciding she was going to create an image for her aunts to carry, she put great thought into which women would be at the forefront of the picture. Marcille decided to include a few big names in the feminist movement but to also largely highlight those who don’t already have a platform but who are fighting to get their voices heard.
“I tried to represent as many different kinds of women as I could,” said Marcille. “I wanted to leave it open to interpretation so that you could see yourself, and see yourself in a position of power alongside well established women like Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I wanted to show that you don’t have to be famous, or well known, or have power to be able to make a difference, or speak your mind, or speak your truth.”
Marcille attempted to make the image as inclusive as she could, showing women of different races and builds and having the woman in the center wearing a pansexual pride flag pin as well. After the popularity of the image ensued, she sent a copy of the poster to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court justice who was featured in it.
According to Marcille, Ginsburg replied with a handwritten note saying how much she loved it and that she was going to have it framed and displayed in her chambers. “She’s so busy, I was blown away that she took the time to send that,” said Marcille.
The success of these art pieces has awarded her a lot of amazing opportunities. For instance, she was asked by the curator of the fine arts and poster collection from the Library of Congress if she’d be willing to donate one of her posters to them. Marcille was very excited by the fact that her art is now a part of history. Another opportunity this success awarded her was the ability to help out causes she supports. She has opened up an Etsy shop called Blooming Anchor where she sells prints of both of her feminist pieces. Half of the proceeds made by these sales are donated to Planned Parenthood and Running Start, an organization that helps women get into politics.
“I never imagined I would focus on political art but it’s sort of been therapeutic for me,” said Marcille. “It makes me feel better when I get worked up about certain things to channel it into something worthwhile.”
Currently, Marcille is working on a new power to the polls piece which she plans on submitting to the Amplifier Foundation, an organization that facilitates the collaboration between artists and grassroots movements, as they have done a call for art.