Women’s difficult stories honored

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I work with words in my art – memories, stories, and history. So when the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art Exhibition curator for the “Choice Exhibition” asked me if I wanted to work on displaying the letters, I said, “Yes!”

These were not just any letters. They were written by women describing their abortion experiences – charged, powerful, emotional, factual, empowered, sad, grateful stories. Women from twenty to eighty-something and from all over the country submitted their writing to the exhibition website.

My goal was to honor these women and their stories visually and to invite gallery visitors to read them.  The colors came to mind immediately. I selected blue for its symbolism to water, emotions, the throat and communications. Violet and purple was picked for its connection to the seventh chakra, about peace and wisdom.

Each letter was read, formatted on the computer for fonts, margins, and type size. Some blue and purple color was added to each page, along with matte medium to strengthen the paper front and back. Then each page was punched top and bottom. Eyelets were added to reinforce their hanging connection using a papaya colored string. Longer letter pages were tied with gray string.

The metal stainless steel ring that supported the letter strands was purchased at Alan Steel. It had to be hack sawed and attached to create the circle.

I felt connected to each woman’s story. When I hung the test run in the outer room of my studio, a breeze came through and danced with the stories. The letters felt alive and released in the wind. A one point I stood in the middle of the hanging pages and the strength and emotions of the stories was very intense.

I deemed the installation a success as I watched women and men interacting with it and reading the stories.

At the last moment I decided to include a stool and a basket of blank paper with an invitation to viewers to write their own stories. I was surprised to hear that on the night of the opening reception, a brave young woman sat in the circle and wrote her story.

A big thank you to NCWCA members Judy Johnson-Williams and Susana van Bezooijen for working the installation too.

This installation is part of the Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art Choice Exhibition curated by Kelly Hammargren. The show is about women’s reproductive rights and is at Arc Gallery in San Francisco. For more details on the exhibition click here.

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