Reclamation!

Bac Cheng Huang, a 21-year-old industrial and systems engineering major, watches a bizarre addition to the Reclamation! art gallery.

If you’ve ever been to a museum, you know that the temptation to touch various pieces of art almost vibrates inside you.

But at Reclamation!, the gallery now showing on the second floor of the Reitz Union, touching is encouraged.

Reclamation! is a collection of art that aims to tear down preconceived notions of feminism. There are several unique items, like magazines and books and a space helmet VHS-television combo the artists created specifically for visitors to flip through and touch. They intend to create a more inviting atmosphere for art dialogue and interaction.

Devin Kelly, a 21-year-old graphic design senior, put the collection together to reclaim the word “feminist.” The opening reception is tonight from 7 to 9 p.m.

“My whole goal is to show people that feminism is for everybody. It’s not just for women, and by calling yourself a feminist, you’re not degrading yourself or something. It’s really just about equality,” she said. “The whole point of it is to elevate women to the same standard as men.”

Although the dictionary definition of feminism describes the movement of political, economic and social equality for both sexes, it is often implied that feminist believe women to be superior to men. This art installation displays the artist’s belief in the equality of men and women.

Every artist portrayed in the show is a self-titled feminist in her or his own way, and each has contributed to the gallery an assortment of art mediums tied to Kelly’s theme.

There is even work done by men.

“Don’t be afraid to be confused,” said 21-year-old drawing senior Zac Thompson, who is one of the men in the show. “I think the reason a lot of people don’t get art is because they don’t understand the context, which can be solved by reading the statement card and title piece.”

Thompson’s work is a 16-piece drawing titled “Blurred Lines: Nude Females in Art,” which was inspired by Robin Thicke’s song with a similar title — recently performed by Miley Cyrus at the VMAs.

To Dounia Bendris, a 20-year-old drawing senior in the UF College of Fine Arts, it’s important to approach any piece of art with an open mind.

“There’s a lot of different types of art, and most people that don’t really view art assume that there has to be a pretty landscape,” she said. “There’s like a lot of obscure things, and you just get to look at it and try to figure out what the artist’s intent was, and decide if you agree or disagree or like it or not.”

The J. Wayne Reitz Union gallery features artwork by UF students, faculty, staff and alumni. According to the union’s website, the exhibitions and performances displayed are meant to advance public awareness of contemporary art as an educational, cultural and inspirational adventure.

The gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Reclamation! will be on display through Sept. 9. Admission is free.

“Feminism is a dirty word,” Kelly said. “The whole point of the show is to convey to people that we are not crazy. These are just our thoughts and feelings.”

A version of this story ran on page 9 on 8/29/2013 under the headline "Interactive art exhibit opens in Reitz to reclaim feminism"