This series is a study in control and blame. Each photo references Baroque vanitas still lifes to explore and challenge the mythological, biblical, and historical grey areas relating to violence against women and place focus on the present-day parallels of these women’s stories.
Grey areas are born out of an unwillingness to accept an action as unequivocally good or evil. While arguably no situation is morally black or white, grey areas can be used to further an individual’s own biases or create doubt in an otherwise solid conclusion. As the gatekeepers of stories have historically been males existing within an imbalanced power structure, grey areas have often been used to strategically justify and excuse assault or redirect blame towards victims.
The stories of Proserpina, Susanna, and Medusa are presented here through poems and allegorical still lifes, highlighting the part of their story that has been manipulated to shift blame away from their abusers: the pomegranate seeds, the oak leaves, and Medusa’s curse. All of these are elements used to debate these women’s role in the violence enacted against them. If you don’t know the stories of these women I highly recommend looking into them and making your own opinions. These women all exist in a space where their innocence or condemnation depends on a reader’s ability to cherry pick intentionally vague or contradictory details to reach a conclusion. The common denominator of these women is that the grey areas in their stories exist in consideration to their behavior, not the man’s. In each story, the man’s violence is not questioned. The woman’s actions become the focus and create reason to question if the man’s actions were truly condemnable.
Art, photography, and poetry have always been my way to process through the uncertainties in my own experiences. I had the realization recently that creating allows me to have control, which is a feeling I crave when it doesn’t seem like I have control over my circumstances. My sense of self was so distorted by memories that I had twisted to shift blame onto myself. I had built a barrier of self-hatred that stood in the way of healing. What helped me most was to create or study the experiences of other women. Placing myself as an outsider to my own experiences led me to realize that this barrier was built by being conditioned as a woman to blame myself for my experiences regardless of my actions. Women exist in a paradoxical expectation that places us in the wrong in every situation. It is incriminating enough just to be a woman in this world.