I believe in ghosts: I believe those who weren’t and won’t be believed, and I see the ghosts that haunt us.
This series of painted self-portraits illuminates the aftermath of sexual assault: the lasting psychological impact of repeated sexualtrauma on an individual and the role silence plays as both an act of self-preservation and tool of oppression. By concentrating on, and repeating, my figure throughout the works, I emphasize the accumulated weight of multiple assaults and share the inescapability of reliving past traumas.
I explore my psyche and experience with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), blurring the line between external presentation and internal reality to bring to light the unseen injuries of sexual trauma that invade and haunt mind and body. Symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, dissociation, and intrusive thoughts and images are suggested using mirrors, portraits within portraits, and condoms which materialize as ghosts throughout the work. At times, the ghosts’ presence takes on a swarm-like quality -- suggesting a looming threat -- while felines act as familiars and guardians, an extension of the subject’s emotional state.
I examine silence as a form of self-preservation. Non-verbal cues, such as gaze and body language, communication boundaries, while static environments evoke the feeling of being frozen in time, just as one may freeze when threatened or attacked. Using the visual language of European masterworks, I relate the tradition of being silenced in the face of dismissal, disbelief, and shaming to the historic exclusion of women’s work and themes in art. I reframe classic imagery, such as the seated and lounging nude, in equivalent-sized works in oil, to reclaim space and agency.
The prevailing environment of skepticism and doubt requires survivors to prove not only that they were assaulted but also that they didn’t deserve it. By focusing attention on the aftermath of sexual assault, rather than the details of what was done by whom and when, I present an opportunity to consider the unseen toll on individuals in this "phantom epidemic."
I Believe in Ghosts Oil on canvas, 60 x 40 inches, 2018
Ourself Behind Ourself, Concealed Oil on linen, 51 x 39 inches, 2020
We Hunt the Doe Oil on linen, 42 x 49 inches, 2020