On the Home Front
ON THE HOME FRONT evolved from a project on teen pregnancy which was a collaboration between young unwed mothers, their alternate school and me. The project culminated with the production of a video by the young women. While working on that project, I discovered that many teen mothers had come from violent homes. O.T.H.F. grew out of that awareness and documented “sites” of family violence. By acknowledging these events and giving support to women and children of abuse, our intent with this work is to give voice to this silent and shame based issue. Further we hope to encourage the judicial system to make it impossible for perpetrators to continue their assaults undeterred.
There are eleven sculptures in the show, seven of which document actual locations where family violence has occurred. Several sculptures have accompanying articles from area newspapers used as source material. Three of the sculptures were derived from shared information from individual women who had come from abusive situations and had survived.
There are eleven mirrors done by my partner Rebecca Graves accompanying the sculptures. Graves invited women who had survived abuse to collaborate with us. They did so by sharing their statements, Rebecca then etched their words on the mirrors.
Dr. Judith Herman, author of Trauma and Recovery writes about the common and seemingly “natural” social process of silencing and denial that surrounds family violence. She states, “Repression, disassociation and denial are phenomenon of social as well as individual consciousness.” We need as individuals and as a society to deny events surrounding violence in the home. Often the events seem so unbelievable in many cases. With this work, we hope to counteract this phenomena of denial by giving a voice, acknowledgement and support to the event and the families.
There is a stigma attached to women who have been or are in abusive situations, even when they speak out publicly. By showing this work in a variety of public spaces and speaking about the unspeakable, as artists we give power to these women and children and awareness to the viewer.
Sara Buel, a nationally known attorney and advocate against domestic violence, outlines the profile of an abuser as one who promotes denial, silence and forgetting by using secrecy as one method to ensure silence, hoping no one listens. The abuser attacks the woman's credibility in several ways; saying it never happened, that the victim lied, exaggerated or that she brought it on herself by her irrational behavior. Another tact is for the abuser to suggest that “it's time to forget” or the event happened so long ago it's time to move on. This kind of denial renders the woman invisible and essentially silenced. On the Home Front is about visibility and belief. It honors the monumental courage of these women as well as the children who suffer in even greater pain and invisibility.
I have purposely designed the work to be minimalist and restrained. As viewers, we become inured and numb to violence when it is present graphically; for example on television and through the media. By presenting the work in a subdued and archeological manner, I am inviting the viewer to think and reflect about the events. By removing any figural references, the viewer is denied the addictive and subconscious pleasure of visual violence. Visually graphic imagery removes or separates us from the experience and we tend to lose the ability to contemplate cause and effect.
With the “sites” I hope to engage the viewer in a more contemplative and reflective process. The positioning of the sculpture and the mirrors in conjunction with the viewer suggests that we are inseparable from the issue at hand. We begin to see ourselves as witness to and part of the social and political problem of family violence. Through education, funding of shelters, supporting family and friends whom we suspect are in trauma and working toward continued changes in legislation, we can effect change. In fact since the inception of the show in 1992, we have seen changes and progress in both law and awareness.