The following is an essay about a piece of art I co-created for Maternal Matters at The Shop At Flywheel Press in San Mateo, CA through May 28, 2015.
Mixed media on ceramic statue
Artists: Jacquelyn Krieger, Lucy Robinson
The Womannequin was born from the desire of two mothers with daughters to openly discuss how society capitalizes on female bodies.
My co-creator, Jacquelyn, and I wanted to use her, this sculpture of a woman’s body, to discuss two multi-billion dollar industries sharing women as their common denominator: the beauty industry and the business of being born.
We have adorned Womannequin with magazine imagery to explore society’s treatment of the sacred feminine. The fun of fashion and the art of beauty resides alongside the objectified female who is sliced and diced, her flesh and her photograph, to measure up to the media’s idea of what a woman should be, which is without question, different and better than who we are. Namely, younger, prettier, skinnier and sexier. (But not too sexy or we risk the label of slut!) While we feel inspired by many empowered and creative females profiled in today’s media, these pieces are juxtaposed by advertisements for weight-loss drugs and age-defying nip/tuck treatments, leaving us marginalized and confused.
We affixed Womannequin with our own personal objects to represent advances in modern medicine that are empowering like the ovulation test and pregnancy test, invasive like the insulin syringe, and careful like the weigh-ins. Science has opened miraculous windows into the womb using lab tests and sonograms, but the results are often interpreted using subjective numbers as the only benchmarks, resulting in misdiagnoses that fail to take into account the whole person. This fear-based culture turns a natural physiological process into illness and birth into a medical emergency, numbing our glory along with our pain.
While the businesses of beauty and birth often use pressure and fear to sell and “save” us, we celebrate femininity as something that is not inherently flawed as we were taught by patriarchy, but rather, inherently perfect. As we silence the critics, internal as well as external, we learn a new way of seeing–and loving–ourselves.