We live in a culture of silence. There is a dissonance between on one hand how we, as a society, claim to value and respect girls and women, and on the other hand how we treat girls and women in particular after coming forward to share that they’ve been sexually harassed, abused, or assaulted. I’ve spent the last year developing and producing self-portraits that directly tackle such themes.
My series I Believe in Ghosts is not about occurrences of assault, but rather the aftermath: the lasting psychological impact of repeated sexual trauma on an individual; the impact of being taught by repeated dismissal, disbelief, and shaming to remain silent; and the impact of growing up and existing within a society that perpetuates this culture.
I use condoms throughout my series as a symbol for ghosts, which represent the haunting presence and actions of toxic masculinity. I explore the psyche, blurring the line between external presentation and what one carries within. By presenting these ideas as a series of self portraits I emphasize the impact on an individual when trauma is internalized and takes on a life of its own inside one’s nervous system.
One recurring theme is the male gaze, a heterosexual male depiction of women as sexual objects of pleasure that has influenced much of our culture for centuries. It’s so pervasive that girls and women often view themselves through the “male" lens without even realizing it - this can confuse sense of self and purpose. Through the context of the seated and lounging nude, I consider how the male gaze influences culture and female identity: how we view ourselves, how we're shown ourselves, and how we're seen by others. Specifically, I present what appears classical and familiar but through a female lens as a means to confront the corrosiveness of the male gaze.
Throughout the series, I reference vanitas — 17th century Dutch still lifes — to draw on the tradition of sharing a moral lesson. Vanitas paintings present an array of objects as symbols to remind us of the transience and vanity of human existence and earthly possessions and pleasures. My modern interpretation of vanitas puts the female figure directly in the composition, exploring transience of innocence, value, and agency relating to female identity.I use symbolism and allusion to convey the tension between objectifying the female body and recognizing the rich interiority of the female subject.
Objects have histories, yet are unable to speak them — what does it really mean to treat women as objects? I believe in ghosts: I believe those who weren’t and won’t be believed, and I see the ghosts that haunt us.
I Believe in Ghosts Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches, December 2018
Behind the Scenes - Series Production in 2020
Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed Oil on linen, 51 x 39 inches, work in progress
We Hunt the Doe Oil on linen, 42 x 49 inches, work in progress
Minds Pass Minds Be They Occupied Oil on linen, 50 x 68 inches, work in progress
Title TBD Oil on linen, 42 x 51 inches, work in progress
Title TBD Oil on linen, 34 x 28 inches, work in progress