Mural Targeting Misogynistic Language Doesn’t Mince Words
BY DUSICA SUE MALESEVIC | Imagine, if you will, a category on Jeopardy devoted to the things that politicians say about women.
I’ll take things politicians say about women for 500, Alex. “Some girls, they rape so easy.” Who is Roger Rivard, a Republican and former member of the Wisconsin State Assembly?
“Rape is kinda like the weather. If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it.” Who is Clayton Williams, a businessman who ran for governor of Texas and lost?
“Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.” Who is Mike Pence, our current vice president, pontificating about 1998’s “Mulan?”
All correct, Trebek would say.
A recently unveiled art installation — a mural titled “We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident” (more on that later) — is taking a cold, hard look at what politicians say about the female population, and is on display at New York Live Arts’ lobby until early September.
New York Live Arts — a nonprofit that produces and presents dance and is the home of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company — often commissions artists to design work for the space’s lobby, Bjorn Amelan, the organization’s creative director, said in an email to Chelsea Now.
Amelan said he approached artist Natalie Frank (natalie-frank.com) late last summer about creating a mural. “At first, she didn’t feel that she’d be able to find the time to create a mural, but following then-candidate Trump’s outrageous comment about grabbing women, she called me back saying that she had an idea she felt for the creation of a work in collaboration with her friend, Zoë Buckman, [zoebuckman.com] that would be timely and doable,” he said.
Buckman said she and Frank had known each other for a couple of years. “She thought it was the perfect marriage if we worked on [the mural] together,” Buckman said in a phone interview.
When the two artists got together before the election, they would “lament” and express disgust about statements politicians were making about women’s rights, Buckman said. “It made sense that we use the collection of these statements about women,” she said.
Once they decided on compiling statements, they got to work, researching, finding quotes, and then double and triple checking them, Buckman explained. “This is the first work of art [for me] where it’s been research heavy,” she said, noting she usually takes a personal approach to her art.
“It was important to us that we included Democrats. The vast majority of the statements were made by Republican men,” she said, adding that they also included quotes from two women. Spending their days looking at hateful and misogynistic things said about women, was “infuriating,” Buckman said. “The process was maddening.”
Buckman and Frank Googled “American old boys’ club” for images and decided to use one of “old white dudes sitting around a mahogany table with a roaring fireplace,” she said. They liked it because some of the men were looking at the camera, she said.
“We wanted to get the balance of information and something that was art — something that was visually appealing to the eye to draw the audience in,” she explained. They then dropped a raspberry-colored inlay over the image to make the white text pop, said Buckman, noting the reddish hue’s association with women and their vaginas.
Buckman said that many women have found the mural triggering. Near the large mural, there is a sheet of paper with information about resources for rape, domestic violence, reproductive services and sexual assault as well as a folder with each quote and its context.
Amelan said, “The mural addresses the issue of respect for the female body/person. Disrespectful statements have been made by politicians representing both sides of the isle, and this mural calls them on it. While its aim is not limited to the present administration, statements made at the highest level of the current administration make it extremely timely.”
The mural’s title is a nod to suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who along with Lucretia Mott organized the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, which pushed for women’s rights and the right to vote. At the convention, many signed the Declaration of Sentiments, which Stanton wrote and modeled after the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men and women are created equal… .”
Buckman said, “We’re trying to encourage [people] to look at the messages that our society is perpetuating and giving voice to. If one is affected by that, what are you going to do about it? The answer is simple: Vote.”
New York Live Arts is located at 219 W. 19th St. (btw. Seventh & Eighth Aves.). For more info, visit newyorklivearts.org.