Content Warning: This post deals with sexual assault. Skip it if you need to.
On Monday, October 23, 2017, my mom and I rolled all 21 pieces of my show into Lowe Mill wrapped up in towels. It was overcast, and gusty, and misting slightly. I guess the weather was giving me well wishes to match my name. I started the day worried about hanging the show. Worried that, once all of the pieces were up on the walls, I’d feel worse about them. I’d catalog all of their flaws and pick them apart.
We unwrapped them and put them in order on the floor. I had planned to hang them in a straight line down the two walls, nine on one wall and nine opposite. However, both my mom and Amy, the gallery Coordinator, suggested varying the heights of the pieces. At first this seemed all wrong. But then as I thought about it, I realized it was another way to emphasize the conversational aspect of this work. So I pulled out the pieces that I wanted to be highest on the wall as a focal point. Then the other pieces just started falling into place around those focal points. I used the spaces between the pieces as a way of emphasizing the pauses that happen in conversations.
The gallery walls are this beautiful shade of light blue-gray that makes the color in my work really pop. Once we started hanging them and seeing them in this space, they looked really interesting and vibrant. We got in a rhythm of hanging them.
When we got to the second wall, the piece that I call “The Rape” in my head but is actually titled “Stupid Slut. Fucking Bitch.” pretty well stopped me cold. I was hanging it up over my head and reading the words that are on the front in tiny type and thinking about the women this piece represents. The ones I know. The ones I don’t know. The staggering weight of the statistics. And I was just so completely cold and sad.
As I hung the next four pieces I read the words on each. “What were you wearing?” “My body is not the problem.” “Why didn’t you fight?” “I said no.” I held the words in my mind and pondered them and I thought anew about how damaging words are and how brutal we are to one another.
And then I stepped back and took some deep breaths and some photos. And I thought about how the words were vile, but how bringing them into the light like this creates a space for healing. I thought about how much healing these 10 months have produced in the lives of women who told me their stories in January. And I feel good about the whole project. The individual pieces may not be perfect. I might not sell any of them. I don’t care. This work has done so much more than I ever imagined it could do.
After we packed up our detritus and loaded them into the car, my mom and I got a celebratory tea from Piper and Leaf. I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment on the drive home. I thought about how I am checking off this giant #LifeGoals box. I enjoyed the rest of the day as I read congratulations from friends from all over the world on social media. After dinner, I realized there was one last thing to do:
Conversational Sexism Dedication
This show is dedicated to the women who shared their stories with me that cold day in January. This show is dedicated to the ones who couldn’t speak out because the pain was too great. This show is dedicated to all the women of the Get Messy Art Journal Community who spoke words of affirmation and encouragement to me along this journey. Your words have been numerous and lovely and humbling. Thank you to my Tuesday Tribe for being my emotional center. Thank you to my family for loving me and believing in me. Thank you.