Trigger warning: This visionary project addresses rape culture and in particular situations of sexual assault that result in murder. Please practice self care in viewing the project, images and stories. This project is ongoing and I will be adding both images and stories as they manifest.
Also, I want to express my deep gratitude for each of you that has (and continues to) witness and support me and this project, you know who you are. BIG LOVE.
Re-membering Beauty is my visceral and creative response to the epidemic of rape culture, in particular to those we’ve lost in acts of sexual or domestic violence. It is the project that I have been steadily working on since the beginning months of my graduate program in 2014, after losing a dear student and friend in an act of sexual violence that rocked our small Mendocino community. Since its birth, each step of the project has moved me in profound ways. Although I have shown these pieces in multiple venues and presented them in academic talks, this is the first time I am posting them online. They want to be seen, and I would like to bring this project further out of the shadows as well.
So far I have created three portraits of women who were murdered and an interactive installation dedicated to my friend Kayla. Each piece speaks to individual grief and to the collective cultural propensity to keep sexual assault and domestic violence in the shadows. My intention is to give voice to the voiceless, specifically by listening deeply to the stories of those who have been murdered in acts of sexual violence, and then creating art that speaks to the beauty and light of those individuals. In affect, Re-membering their beauty, their spark and what our world has lost in keeping them only identified as “victim”. My work creates arenas for discourse, effectively breaking a silence that surrounds this difficult topic. We are, as a collective, numb and silent around this issue. This work has a potent message that touches the individuals who interact with it in profound and healing ways, as we see in the quote below from a participant in my first showing of the installation and portrait of Kayla …
“I am a public speaker and writer, my world is filled with words and they rarely fail me. This past November I had the honor of speaking at a San Francisco event called “Surviving and Thriving.” I walked into the space early to help set up and was immediately drawn to Dena’s portrait and moving installation. I found myself standing in the middle of the room staring at the portrait with tears flowing. I was left speechless. Both moved me to silence, for it was the first time ever I felt immediately connected to a person I did not know. It was the first time I felt completely seen and understood. Both the installation and the portrait spoke to me in such profound ways. It was as if they were created specifically so I had the privilege to interact with them.” Dr. Alissa R. Ackerman
The installation. Surviving & Thriving, November 2015. San Francisco, Ca.
Stephanie and Shelley, founders of Surviving & Thriving, November 2015, San Francisco, Ca. “moving through the experience”
Kayla’s Grace, Acrylic on canvas, 48″x 48″
Danna’s Light, Acrylic on canvas, 48″x 36″
Rosie’s Ascent, Acrylic on canvas, 48″x 30″
Re-membering Beauty: Artist’s Statement
I am an artist who is dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless using art and story-collection, working specifically to symbolically tell the stories of women who have lost their lives in sexual assault or domestic violence situations. In affect, Re-membering their beauty, their spark and what our world has lost in keeping them only identified as victim. I am dedicated to moving forward to change the patterns that perpetuate violence against the feminine in all its forms. The courage and beauty I have witnessed over and over again when survivors of assault come together to speak loud and clear bring me great hope that together we can create the deep change that comes from being fully witnessed. Only then can our grief and rage be transformed into love and healing.
Thank you for witnessing