This is My Story

i believe Christine Blasey Ford

Today I watched Christine Blasey Ford provide testimony to the world about her experience with sexual assault. I stand in solidarity and support with her as Survivor. This is my story. We all need to be heard.

Thank you Dr. Ford.

I believe you.

Let’s Talk About Sex

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In the past few years, the Femme Project has been evolving and learning about how women are perceived and represented in American society. Last year, the #MeToo movement drove a wave of anger, and protest by women no longer content to remain silent in the shadows. The words and actions of our Misogynist-In-Chief and the abuses by men in power on such a vast scale resulted in women standing and speaking with a single voice. “NO MORE.”  In the midst of one bad news cycle after another, I began to think hard about the dynamic of sex and what role it plays in women’s equality. To be a woman is to be part of a sisterhood of common experience around bad sex, marginalization, sexual harassment and assault, slut shaming, and, most tragically, rape. Since starting the Femme Project, women’s issues have been the focus of my work, albeit the themes were more broad and expansive in order to explore the experience of “all” women. After much reflection about my artistic direction, I believe it is time for change.

Why Change?

I believe unequivocally that women cannot be truly equal until they own and control the conversation about their sex and sexuality. I choose the word “sex” to be used atypically and it has become the basis for the launch of the #RespectHerSex movement. The word “sex” includes more than just the common understanding of sex as gender or sex as intercourse. Sex encompasses both the biological and pleasurable experiences in a woman’s sexual journey throughout her lifetime. This is important, because we, as women, are not having a conversation about sex, our own pleasure, or even how the dynamic of sex is at the root of some of the most critical issues facing women today.

Misogyny and sexism is not just a conservative disease or male affliction. In my experience, some of the most liberal and enlightened women are not talking about the elephant in the room: SEX. Not just our biology, which has gotten a lot of play thanks to the sitting U.S. president who openly bragged about sexual assault as a way to dominate “hot” women. I am talking about the dynamic of how women engage in sex for pleasure and sexual activity, either alone, or with a partner. This topic makes even the most progressive women feel uncomfortable, roll their eyes, and change the subject. Society tells women, that they should censor their naked bodies in the name of family values. But sex sells perfume, athletic wear and potato chips on billboards in Times Square and in Superbowl time slots. The religious right continues to blame and shame women for their sex and sexuality, crusading to ban Cosmopolitan Magazine from the checkout aisles of Walmart in the name of decency and “empowerment.” Meanwhile, the liberal left and moderate middle ignore the guerrilla warfare in their backyard. Amid this zealotry and apathy, women continue to be socialized, shamed, and victimized in ways that men will never experience and most can’t even understand.

So, into the fray I jump with both feet!

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What Can You Expect?

It’s gonna get real! Expect more social media posts, blog posts, projects, and content focused on women’s sex and sexuality. It’s time to normalize sex as a topic that we can, and SHOULD, talk about. Sex is fundamental to our identity as women. We need to embrace it. We need to celebrate it. In 2018, I am creating short films, erotic literature, and visual art that will be themed and focused on how we, as women, experience and express our sex.

Sex, masturbation, fantasies, and explorations are all fair game. I want to challenge women and men to think differently about how we engage sex. An entire generation of young men and women are growing up in a society that censors information about sex, but at the same time, provides access to an unlimited world of pornography. This contradiction creates an environment and perception about sex that is dangerous for women. I encourage … no, actually … I DEMAND that women learn about their bodies and experiment with them. I want to shut down shaming before it starts. If a 47-year-old woman wants to bare it all in a teeny bikini, that is her choice, her right, and she should be empowered at every age to do so. If a woman wants to engage in any sexual activity that she chooses, she should feel free, feel safe, and be able to embrace her pleasure at all times.

It is our responsibility as women to raise each other up, to encourage each other, and to express ourselves how we choose. Without exception. I ask that all women rise up, start a conversation, and start a movement. I ask that you join me - join me in standing up for women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and experiences. Together we will build a world that demands that everyone:

#RespectHerSex

 

the aesthetic alibi in the age of #MeToo

 Photo Credit: Wanderlust Photography ©2014-2018

Photo Credit: Wanderlust Photography ©2014-2018

the artist and his art

The New York Times reported last week that the National Gallery of Art decided to indefinitely postpone an upcoming exhibition of artwork by Chuck Close, a prominent American painter and photographer, due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Not surprisingly, art and controversy go hand-in-hand, like peanut butter and jelly, and so too, does the romanticized relationship between the Artist and his Muse. That unequal power dynamic, which has existed in this space so naturally for centuries, was sure to shatter under the weight of #MeToo.

We collectively agree that Harvey Weinstein is reprehensible. That Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K. and James Franco and the ever growing list of perpetrators are accountable for their actions, on screen and behind the scenes. There should be consequences for their actions and abuses of power. Some of the most influential artists of history have backgrounds riddled with sexual misconduct, yet their work hangs with reverence in the most prominent museums. Response by curators and museums has been mixed and lukewarm at best. The debate between separating the art from the artist continues to plod along.

They scoff, “Are we to take down the Picassos too?”... I say, “Why not?”

The art world has been predicated by the sale, objectification and even sexualization of the female form by the male artist. The male artistic perspective has controlled what we see and learn about as art. Male artists dominate the history books from the earliest inklings of cave paintings to present day. Can you name famous woman artist? If so, how many? A staggering statistic from the National Museum of Women in the Arts highlights that women artists comprise only 3–5% of major permanent collections in the U.S. and Europe. Additionally, less than 4% of the artists in the Modern Art section of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 76% of the nudes are female. The male gaze and the curation of male artistic dominance has permeated every significant art movement and art venue, flourishing unchecked throughout history.

With such influence and control, how can we separate the artist from the art? Their power, their experience and their perspective is profound in everything they create.

 Photo Credit: Wanderlust Photography ©2014-2018

Photo Credit: Wanderlust Photography ©2014-2018

the artist and his muse

When exploring the relationship between the Artist and his Muse, many art models have been lured by the promise of a portfolio, enamored by the reputation of a star, and seduced by the immortality of a portrait. In this context, the role of the Artist equates to that of an Employer, holding power over the Employee (the Muse and the Model). The power dynamic is clear and unequal when characterized in these terms. That contract should be treated with the professionalism like any other work for hire arrangement. Sadly, it is a dynamic which has created a fertile ground for abuse when a female body becomes nude.

My perspectives have been shaped by similar personal experiences. While serving on the board of directors for an arts organization, a male artist engaged me in conversation alone on the street immediately following a board meeting. He was much older than me and a painter of some renown in the local community. We were discussing specifics of the meeting when suddenly he pivoted - he asked me to pose nude for a series of his paintings, showering me with flattering words about my appearance and my body. I was shocked since our current discussion was one of a professional nature, unrelated to any mention of modeling, much less nudity. I politely replied that I would think about it. I was completely unprepared on how to respond to this man, an artist, and a person with a respectful position and reputation. Uncomfortable, I quickly made excuses to leave when he reached over, grabbed my arm, and pulled me in to kiss me on the mouth. Shock was replaced by horror and I exited away from the street and away from him as quickly as humanly possible. I felt ashamed and powerless as a consequence of his actions - just one of the many #MeToo moments that millions of women experience on a daily basis.

I applaud the National Gallery of Art, but let's not stop with half measures. Let's not lose the #MeToo Movement to a moment of what’s trending.

Let's not have to protest this shit again in 20, 40 or 60 years.

We can contextualize inappropriate behavior and sexual inequality as a sign of their historical time, but when a living artist is accused of sexual harassment or sexual assault, we should be keen to demand the truth and rightful accountability. A hard line needs to be drawn, not just in the sand, but in the mother fucking bedrock!

If indeed, the allegations against Chuck Close prove to be true, he should not only be denied from exhibiting, his work should be shunned, banned and removed. Artists that use their position to victimize others are shameful. Their perspectives are flawed and wrong. And yes, if Picasso was an abuser of women, perhaps he too should be scrutinized under the same lens. Perhaps his work and his contributions become less exceptional and visionary when confronted with the truth of his humanity.

If the artist's message and vision supersedes their personal conduct and we allow them a seat at the table of history, how do we answer to the abused and the victimized? As a democracy and defender of inalienable rights, how can we defend a position that elevates abuse of power?