Kimberly Sass was frustrated with her locker room.
Sass, a Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association goalie, and her teammates found themselves trying to get dressed in a locker room that was spilling over to the toilet area. They rolled their eyes and made jokes about it, but the frustrations were mounting.
“Nobody knows about this,” Sass recalled of what put her into action. “Sitting there in the locker room I was thinking of what is a more productive way to raise awareness of these things because if no one knows about these struggles, no one can really help us.”
The idea of the advocacy art show “Behind the Front” was then born.
A full-time architectural designer by trade at HLW NYC, Sass used her art background to create a series of paintings and installations that depict the inequities of women’s professional hockey.
“Exposing both positive and negative experiences I think is very important to make strides forward,” Sass said.
The paintings highlight various events in Sass’ pro career. One painting named “Profundme Mask,” features her side profile with her goalie mask that is blue and gray, the colors of her old team and her jersey is red, the colors of her new team. Sass writes on her website that the piece represents the lengths she had to go to replace her old goalie mask after signing with a new team. The subdued colors evoke the shame she felt that the fans had to help her get new equipment instead of the league.
The painting titled “Championship Ring” is Sass’ favorite and the one she started the whole show with. It was inspired by the championship she won with Metropolitan Riveters in 2018. The ring is painted on a red background which Sass likes the way it pops and the positive memory it represents.
“Last summer is when I started approaching venues and I thought it would be great to use the NHL platform,” Sass said about finding the right place to display her work. “To open each NHL market or club’s eyes to the realties.”
The exhibit opened January 30th at the Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden as part of the New York Rangers “Girls Hockey Day.” In February, the exhibit moved to Novado Gallery in Jersey City, New Jersey and CEPA Gallery in Buffalo, New York.
The Seattle Kraken are now hosting the show at Kraken Community Iceplex from March 18-21.
The installation pieces have stirred the most reaction in the show. The “Ice Trough” installation features a livestock tank paired with hay which represents the tanks her team had to buy to use as an ice bath.
“Just seeing the public’s reaction when they read the descriptions and then come up to me after and say, ‘is this actually reality?'” Sass said. “They are actually dumbfounded because they had no idea, and some people don’t even know women’s pro hockey exists.”
Sass hopes the showcase will raise awareness of these experiences and garner individual and corporate support for women’s pro spots. Ten percent of all the artwork sales through print and digital auction are going to the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King, through April 1st.
Seattle will not be the last stop on the “Behind the Front” art show tour, upcoming dates and locations will be revealed soon.