GALLERY-goers were given a swift lesson in feminism on Friday night, courtesy of guest speaker Wendy Sharpe whose entertaining opening-night delivery was as hilarious as it was confusing and confronting to at least half the audience that ran to more than 100.

Nevertheless, she powered on as she opened La Femina, one of the four exhibitions being opened that evening, explaining why we still needed to have special exhibitions to celebrate women making art.

"It has improved since the '60s and '70s for female artists and a lot of people think everything's alright in the art world thanks to Tracey Emin and a few others but it's not alright, and it's not just about the art world unfortunately," the 1996 Archibald Winner said.

Wendy cited an art world example, like a major collection in London that has 2300 articles of which 11 are by women, and another where less than 10% of the works are by women, yet 85% of the nudes in that collection are of women. That got a few laughs and nods alongside the bewilderment.

She referred to that as "under the radar sexism", which "is not just about art, it's everywhere".

"You can even see it on the ABC."

Then she posed the question: "What do people immediately think when you mention an artist and a model?

"Most imagine an old man and beautiful young attractive female nude model. To reveal sexism you only have to reverse a situation to see the difference."

Two more of the exhibition openings on Friday night centred around a female theme, including the touring show from Monash University, Photography Meets Feminism: Australian woman photographer 1970s-80s and History of Jewellery in the Clarence Valley curated by Bree Hiatt and featuring an array of precious and costume pieces from jewellery boxes around the region.



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