The figurative paintings in Pink Apocalypse start a conversation about gender performance, place, and crisis. How both individuals and groups of women interface with looming changes in their immediate environments?
In 2019, Dr. Blasey-Ford's courageous testimony fueled my bravery in examining my feelings and dreams as a survivor during the #MeToo movement without self-censure. Since then, I have been painting images of women convening at the outer boundaries of the domestic frontier awaiting an ambiguous happening.
In the Pink Apocalypse series, the sky is often in the process of turning an unnatural shade of pink. As this happens, the characters in the paintings react to the apocalyptic turn of events by preparing for wanted or unwanted changes, real or imagined threats, and sufficient or insufficient resolutions in an uncertain future.
Figures in my paintings respond to environmental forces that either create tension or solidarity. Women gather as groups for rebellion or defense, plot mysterious forms of vigilante justice, prepare to fight or flee, or pick up the pieces together after a cataclysm.
Some figures seem to be healing from wounds, while others are curious about the harnessing apocalyptic magic, and many cleave to their homes in panic. Some even heed Mitski’s advice to “Be The Cowboy” and search the land for answers & threats, as others surrender to their new normal, cigarette in hand, as events unfold.
The environments in my paintings are densely layered, using visual patterns to reference cyclical patterns of thought that are laced into our perceived realities. These patterns are interwoven with direct and indirect social pressures, impacting both body and mind.
Some of these pressures are also embodied by multiple versions of my self-portrait, who behave as different characters in order to reference the relationship between gender and place. One version of myself presents as hyperbolically feminine, appearing as an apocalyptic harbinger whose presence represents felt pressures of performing white femininity.
Traditional gender expectations are suffocating and breed an intensity to choose between conflict or survival. In my experiences living with complex PTSD as a survivor, overperforming my assigned gender often feels correlated with the self-effacing “fawn response” to acute stress.
This studied response to trauma is often accompanied by guilt and self-anger as well as problems in one’s social interactions. Likewise, this character in the paintings is both victim and monster as her infection with this pattern of behavior hurts both herself and her relationships with others.
Another repeated version of myself in the series presents more androgynously, usually in denim. Dressing practically to canvas her surroundings yet wearing red lipstick, she has both the agency to choose a fluid relationship to gender that shifts to fit her needs and the empowerment to be critical, brave, and inventive in the face of oncoming threats. These versions of me are often at odds, and I find myself negotiating conflicts between them as I move through the world, as are my self-portraits in the paintings.
As it’s difficult to unpack decades of performing gender and internalizing misogyny, I exist as both of these characters. Sometimes, mutual destruction feels certain, and other times, I get closer to finding some sort of understanding. The paintings create space for this to occur as these women struggle to problem-solve, collaborate and adapt within turbulent environments.
We are vulnerable, permeable beings, affected by our surroundings and histories. Set within the home space as a microcosm from which to observe larger social forces, my figurative paintings explore the intersection of gender performance with sense of place.
Domestic space intermingles house and body into a connected environment. My works are informed by bodily rhythms of myself, my family, and my friends, whose experiences and coping mechanisms vary. How do emotions like longing, discomfort, loss, and apathy manifest in our interactions, both small and large?
Home can be both a restorative sanctuary and the battleground for some of our biggest struggles as individuals and as families, including grappling with communal and personal traumas. My immigrant grandmother, reflecting on witnessing national crises in our home of former Yugoslavia, tells me “to pay attention when the sky’s bleeding even if someone tells you it’s not.”
These paintings grapple with the roles figures play actively or inactively, together or divided, in both contributing to and addressing a crisis. Susan Fraiman writes in Extreme Domesticity that “home may be a key site of aesthetic, political, and psychological innovation.” By paying attention to how our homes interface with the forces outside them, we can start to reopen and reshape understandings of self and world.
This exhibition was made possible by an artist enrichment grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women.
Pink Apocalypse can be viewed in the Galleries at Georgetown College in the Wilson Gallery Wednesday through Saturday from 12:00 to 4:30 pm from March 17- April 17. Mask-wearing, along with proper social distancing is required in the galleries at all times.