Monday, June 12, 2017

To the Guys Who Grabbed at my Crotch: Thank You!

Me at Art! Vancouver.   Painting: Lluis Garriga Filip
In May I was walking down an aisle of exhibitors at the Art! Vancouver gala, wearing an altered wedding gown from my (dis)robe series. All around the skirt, painted arms reach up from the floor to embrace, protect, or maybe pull the wearer down. That’s me, in this case: The wearer. It’s an open-fronted wedding dress, now that I’ve altered it, and I wore it with a nude body suit, including false pubic hair, made of a discarded brown wig. Women laughed as I walked along; a couple of them thanked me, without saying why. And one of these, who stopped me in my tracks with a desperate-looking smile and wide eyes, held me tightly by the arm and said, “thank you. Thank you for doing this. Thank you so much,” as her male companion leered at me, then squatted down close beside me and tugged at the false pubic hair, his face only inches from my crotch.

You know what I did? Nothing. Because really, it wasn’t all that unexpected. In fact, three different men reached down and handled my wigged crotch that evening. A multitude more said lude things to me. And I did nothing about it. Because they were making a point for me, and their wives were thanking me. Art is always a kind of sacrifice, and I’d rather be sacrificing myself this way, on stage on my own terms, than in the countless ways I do when I simply walk down the street looking female.

My work is intended to make people think about life – the way we live it, and the other people we share it with. Everything I create, whether a very personal abstract painting, an immersive landscape of people telling stories, or a provocative reclaimed wedding gown, is an effort to illuminate humanity so that we see each other and the places we inhabit in new light, with compassion, curiosity, and a feeling of belonging.