“A Ribbon Around a Bomb: who I am being + becoming in this space” | Project Statement:
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the power of my magnetism. It’s not coincidental that I’ve attracted so many powerful people into my world, so many gems, so much brilliance. I believe that in one way or another, I must be calling forth or requesting this type of commanding energy from the universe. In 2012, when I came home from living abroad in Paraguay, I started to recognize how many powerful womyn occupied my sphere of influence, how many amazing womyn were part of my life. As an artist and documenter, devoted to freezing time and holding on to ephemeral moments and eras with my photographs, I had to find a way to capture this phenomenon, this powerful moment in time. I had to somehow showcase this realization that the womyn surrounding me possessed special and distinct types of magic.
“A Ribbon Around a Bomb: who I am being + becoming in this space” is a photographic document / portraiture series that examines the feminine force present in my world. It is an homage to the variety of gifts womyn offer this world and an artistic declaration of the tools we use to fight for our liberations, justices and fundamental freedoms. This ongoing series contains digital color portraits + accompanying written reflections of womyn who I consider vivacious, unapologetic, passionate + courageous. Ribbons symbolize sensitivity + elegance, while bombs represent fiery, charged potential. The imagery of a bomb laced with a ribbon speaks to the contrasts that these womyn experience + inhabit. The finesse, femininity + grace of a ribbon matched with the vigor, aggressiveness + threat (not necessarily negative) of the way we live our lives, reminds me of the way my muses live their own lives – in a way that is simultaneously Feminine and Fearless.
It has always been important for me to photograph people and spaces that are recognizable to me. The things I know bring me comfort and security and I feel a certain level of “urgency to archive” when I feel these things are fleeting, transitory. However, beyond this yearning for the familiar, when I can recognize the beauty and potential of my images to influence and inspire, therein lies the enchantment in my art. The womyn I have chosen to photograph for “A Ribbon Around a Bomb…” are womyn and girls who I know, love deeply and admire, who have influenced me in some way and who remind me that womynhood is inclusive of several, varied realities and experiences. They remind me that the ways we view ourselves and what we have to offer are critical elements of how we participate in this world; that we are simultaneously being and becoming in this world. They remind me of the perpetually fundamental Audre Lorde quote, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.” For me, empowering women is empowering humanity but first, we must recognize the source, the fountain, of our individual powers in order to harness those powers in our struggle for equality.
In “A Ribbon Around A Bomb,” I asked muses to reflect on one characteristic that makes them powerful, to tell me what makes them a “bomb,” + to complete the phrase; “I am powerful because I am....” What I originally envisioned as a simple and painless assignment was actually a tremendously challenging act of meditation and self-observation, something that required my muses to search for the origins of their influence. This element of self- reflection is pivotal in telling our stories from our own perspectives, in seizing agency of our representation in this world, images and stories that are often male-dictated and dominated. This internal investigation is a necessary element in being able to function in the external world. It requires that we see ourselves as valuable contributors to our societies, as worthy of being respected and living dignified lives. What’s more, these statements give us, as an audience, insight into the qualities we personify, value, rely on + embody as womyn and girls – our cores, our foundations, the weapons we wield to overcome life’s obstacles with confidence + finesse. Power and womanhood can and do co-exist. These women are real-life examples of that truth. Our individual strengths are the instruments we employ to fight the discrimination, racism, sexism, poverty and the many other multiple layers of prejudices we face in our communities. My muses have been photographed in a way that is defiant, resisting inequality and discrimination against womyn, standing tall and proud in defense of an image of feminine force. Together, we are able to make art that secures this compelling image.
In the process of creating these images together, my muses and I are challenged to consider who we are, what we have to offer our communities and environments, what we deserve as human beings and also to compare that against what we actually have/can access and can achieve. This reflective process forced us to consider the fact that as women, we face additional barriers to the enjoyment of our human rights either because of our socio-economic class, race, ethnicity or migrant status and in some cases, a far more layered bias due to the combination of these factors. We believe in the equal enjoyment of human rights by all living, breathing human beings, regardless of gender. We want to enjoy our freedoms without distinctions.
Seeing womyn and girls that are like us reminds us that we exist. These portraits offer a portrayal of feminine strength and introducing them into the public domain is a brave act of shifting the discourse on womyn and girls. It gives us a visibility we often lack. Art is my way of bringing us into the conversation. We need to see ourselves in these portraits, imagine ourselves, and each other, as powerful in order to work towards harnessing our powers in the struggle for women’s equality. Keeping us invisible is a violation of our basic human right to be, to simply exist. In the struggle for women’s human rights, all of the character strengths of my muses are necessary: authenticity, courage, hope, fearlessness and resilience among others. For me, seeing, acknowledging and visualizing their strengths demonstrates the forces these womyn wield to overcome the tragedies, pains and struggles that exist in their lives.
This series is an ode to femininity + grace, to strength + revolution. It is also a testament to the power of creative art. It is a reminder of the fundamental freedom of expression I enjoy as an artist. It is a way to share something with the world, to offer inspiration. Art is also a way of fighting back, of adding to the discourse on womyn and our experiences so that the dialogue on womyn, which revolves around us but often dismisses our voices, does not continue to be one-sided. We are not only imagining equality, we are also imaging equality. With this series, I am forcing people to say, “Look at these important womyn; we are human, we are here and not in the monolithic tragic narrative that often pervades our environments and spaces.” This is how I choose to fight back against the distorted images and stories of who we are and who we can be: by offering examples of womyn in my own life who are phenomenal in so many extraordinary ways.
I hope this series inspires womyn + girls to identify, define + embrace whatever it is that gives them strength to navigate life, to live with dignity and respect. The muses in “A Ribbon Around A Bomb” are an artistic portrayal of the matrimony between femininity + force, between grace + guts and most importantly, they are a true and honest reflection of girl power.