Headspace

written by Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito.

Originally posted Aug 2, 2021.

My Uncles Tray, Carmel By The Sea California Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

People have said that when immersed in the untouched wild places of the Earth that it makes them realize just how inconsequential they are, but I have found the exact opposite to be true. After spending almost three months off and on during this summer in the wild backcountry spaces of the American West, immersing myself in nature creating, I began to realize just how essential we all are, and the great importance that I have as an individual to work towards the preservation of these spaces that acquiesce healing. 

Cliff Side, The Grand Canyon National Park Arizona Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Art for Activism and Social Commentary are genres that I have always been drawn to throughout the entirety of my art career. I have always created within these genres while working in my own mixed media visual art processes; whether it was during my MFA or MA work, visual art work or performing at an early age, researching the physical act of creation’s ability to aid cognitive healing in affected persons, or exploring the cross cultural, religious, gender, and political barriers to facilitate de-stigmatized conversations around mental health and disabilities, I have always sought to create art that affects change, and healing. This also rang true in my earlier works, where I created with the intent of seeking to break down the stigmas surrounding child abuse survivors, rape survivors, and sexual assault survivors living with mental health disabilities as a result of the severe trauma that we have survived. Cognitively, I know that this makes complete sense due to the fact that I, myself, am a survivor; which meant that part of my Mt. Everest climb—a cathartic journey into healing—would be creating within the fine art, constructed artistic reality, self-portrait, and self as study realm. You can’t help others until you do your own healing work. As work does, it grows; it becomes more abstract or literal, and evolves. This evolution was huge for me over the past five years as my work began to take more abstract, impressionist, and contemporary leanings when creating in site specific wild spaces completely immersed in nature. This evolution has not been easy. Growing up a pampered athlete artist—“a comfortable city gal”, as my partner would say, regardless of being a Senior Girl Scout (OH YEA) who lived in the Costa Rican jungle for a part of my Undergraduate studies at Penny Stamps School, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where I was an NCAA champion female rugby player, being at one with bugs, and dirt everywhere without super clean spaces to retreat to after has been a difficult transition. I don’t think I will ever be someone who doesn’t need to shower as soon as they get home after a long day of training and working remotely in the backcountry, and honestly I like being fresh and clean. This is probably why our mobile studio Lucky Sasquatch ( @luckysquatch ) always smells so good. I guess as I am writing this I am realizing that I am an artist whose creative processes need cleanliness, organization, and some order to be involved within the fluidity of my work flow. I am also a very driven, type A, highly functioning Neurodivergent chick that prizes herself on getting shit done before everyone else even with my numerous mostly un-seen cognitive disabilities, and I believe this is also where my competitive athletic side comes into play. I always seek to go above and beyond to deliver. This is just a part of who I am. Though, I digress.

Sunsets Bliss, The Grand Canyon National Park Arizona Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Back to the physical act of creation in site specific wild spaces in nature. The acquiescence of cognitive healing and person to person uniquely dependent self—re-normalization of the Amygdala region of the brain. As I travel by foot with camera in hand, deeper into the wild spaces of our planet, I notice my severe anxiety, PTSD, sleep, and other cognitive symptoms begin to dissipate over time. The longer the duration of time that I have spent every summer for the past five years immersed in the backcountry of the American Southwest and West with my partner, my symptoms as well as his, begin to grow less strong on a daily basis until they went away completely after a month of working off grid. The transition of city work life from remote work life is always a difficult one, which also has gotten better with each trip we take into nature to create. I began to notice that once I retreated into city life, my anxiety would be crazy high for the first few weeks each time but then overall my basal symptoms would be drastically reduced post deep immersive creation in nature. The overall triggers became less and less as well.  This reconnection of the “ID”, if you will, begins to transpire. With each shutter click, each brush stroke, or motion of my hands creating sculpture allows me to cognitively recognize the completely rational irrationality of it all. Meaning, I could now actually recognize and better control my symptoms; not just after my therapist helped me, but on my own. My symptoms are completely normal because of what I have survived and experienced in my life. The ability to recognize these greatly heightened symptoms during trauma was never accessible, but after four years making these trips while working weekly with a therapist, doing my ultra marathon training daily, and creating in nature, I can do so. The sensory receptors of physical and emotional pain post numerous traumas continually survived since childhood through my teen years and early twenties, no longer constantly weigh on me like a 100kg anvil pulling me into the depths of the ocean, but rather are filled inside a much lighter 15kg kettle bell. This kind of freedom—yes I say freedom, because when you have not understood yourself, your brain, and or could not control your body’s response to your brain for almost a decade and can do this after working your butt off continually for years, you are more free than you have been in years, and life becomes not just survivable but, it is livable—this is what the wild gives spaces promise to give us if we can only surrender. Creation in nature, where we as a species are meant to be, heals and this is deeply true for my partner, whom has chronic genetically inherited ADHD and Depression. 

The Man, Grand Canyon National Park Arizona Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

This freedom is the very same freedom that people of privilege can’t fathom, yes I say privilege because if you have survived even some of the shit us trauma survivors have you are among the privileged, which means that you can’t ever truly understand it, nor would I ever wish you to, but the point in my sharing this through bravery of the written word, frankly not giving a crap about the negative backlash of possible haters, is because helping others is the intended outcome of majority of my art, and life. If I can help others heal through the physical act of creation and hopefully soon continue my scholarly research along this route via a Practice Led DPhil or PhD, I will have achieved my purpose in surviving, and going through what I have gone through. Demonstrating the power to heal within my own research, work, and giving joy with hope to others is what I am all about. Just know, all you survivors out there who are too scared, for whatever reason to come forward, to get help, to open the door to healing, that you can, and that you are not alone. I mean, shit, the goal of putting myself through hell, crawling through the bloody, beaten, broken gutter of what I have survived, allowing myself to remember, to feel it all, and truly process it properly emotionally with intense courage enabled me to get here. It enabled me to become a better wife, friend, colleague, small female business owner, and professional artist. The baggage that you carry has massively negative consequences if un-dealt with for too long. I learned this the hard way and I never want anyone to have to do so because it blows. To get to the point where I was no longer in flight or fight mode daily, constantly battling every moment of every day through severely heightened physical pain (kinda used to this as it hasn’t gone away and I have been an elite level current extreme sport athlete for years), emotional pain (still bad not as hardcore though), severe  chronic panic attacks (rarely occur as I can control pre-trigger symptoms if caught) that make you get vertigo, and more was to demonstrate that, The Physical Act of Creation, paired with psychological treatment can facilitate healing, and growth. You just have to do the work. You have to cry. You have to talk about all the feelings, the anger, the rage, and only then do you begin to acknowledge how truly strong you are; how truly capable you are. That creation, therapy, nature, pot (yup), and physical activity put you on the road to a healthy life. This life includes the ability to recognize co-dependent toxic relationships that are un-healthy, it gives you the courage to love these people from afar, or recognize how awful of human beings they are because of their own issues/inability to do the same due to fear, and move forward with your life. Nature gives you perspective. She facilitates your healing if you do the work, and I have continued to do so this summer.

Untitled, Big Sur California Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

The COVID-19 Pandemic hit us all extremely hard—shit we are still in it going on two years . It seems kind of impossible to undergo this kind of healing when you are terrified to step outside your door without a mask, can no longer physically connect with humans the same way, and, man, does Mother Nature in the backcountry also help with these feels. Especially the remote job working uncertainly feels, which luckily now we all know is better than stuffy traditional offices and totally do-able if you are driven human! I mean, I graduated with my MFA December 2019 in person, and MA May 2020 online, into the pandemic, and the worst job recession America has ever seen. Starting up my own small business during this time has been crazy hard, as has applying for remote jobs and PhD/DPhil positions, but I refuse to give up. Never will. It isn’t in my nature. One of my dearest colleagues during my MFA studies, as well as a colleague who is a friend died as a result of an abusive partner not two months ago due to a forced isolation from friends/family plus abuse that continued during the pandemic, and I lost two other friends who have done/said things that are not only ableist but quite frankly not ok. I am still grappling with this, this is why it has taken me so long to write to you all as I have been deep in grief, loss, the resurgence of the past loss of both my parents by the age of 18 due to my friends death triggering these memories I survived as a kid, and more. I want everyone to know they are loved, feel loved, be loved, and one of the things my partner and therapist have told me is that not everyone deserves this wild unbridled kind of ceaseless love. Some don’t deserve it all. Part of me kind of feels this is true, but the intense weight of loss has been something that has crept up on me all summer when we come out of the back country, it is slightly lighter when in nature, and maybe that’s why my choice of medium has been something different, exciting, terrifying; one that I haven’t touched in years. Certain times in your life drive you to certain materials when you are a natural mixed media artist; there are dominant characters and mine include photography, painting, performance, and sculpture. It was all dependent on the shit life was throwing at me during that moment in time. What matters is that we choose what best communicates not only the subject matter of each piece but the conceptual matter as a whole, and that aesthetic, creative, and artistic skill are all used to follow the creative processes to fruition while facilitating our own unique healing journeys. 

Untitled, Nor Cal Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Texas to Arizona, Arizona to California, California to Oregon, and now we are in Nevada heading towards Utah. It has been a long trip; I am finally ready to start applying to shows and have a bunch of projects in the works, y’all! I know this was a long blog, if you are still here with me, I send you tons of love, thanks, and light for making it to the bottom of the page. Shorter blogs to come ;), as well as poem shorts on my Instagram page @nornslife_art, be sure to check out my art work for sale and help support my journey as an emerging Professional Female Artist and Small Business Owner. Love and thanks to all y’all for following me on this journey! All y’all’s support is invaluable. 

Lucky Sasquatch, California Summer 2021, NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Get Vaccinated & Mask Up So I Can Meet Y’all ;)! Please!! 

With Tenderness,

Daniella

NORSNLIFE ART | DACD, MFA & MA

Originally posted May 11, 2021.

Desert Dunes, Image 1 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Breaching into the unknown is the soliloquy of the truly effervescent, serene, and freeing moments only nature can provide. It is these moments, which inspire site specific creation. For this reason alone, it would be enough to want to push my own creative growth forward through the embracing of the unknown and terrifying, as I continually did through out my Master of Fine Arts and Master Degrees studies the past six years. You see, I found that it is only in pushing myself as a female artist athlete into the terrifying and unknown that I truly flourish and continue to grow. 

Desert Dunes, Image 2 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Desert Dunes, Image 3 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

The draw to live a nomadic life has grown stronger and stronger over the past three years as my partner and myself set off into the unknown backcountry of the wilds of the American West and Southwest. The ability to work 100% remotely, train, and create in nature enabled me to find myself once again as a female artist; to further heal from the traumas that I have survived. Site specific creation in the American West and Southwest has led me down many different creative avenues. These avenues all had one thing in common, though: the immense desire to continue to research the possible cognitive affects that the physical act of creation have on mental health, and its’ ability to facilitate other’s healing from post trauma disabilities that are often caused by not properly processing the lived, and survived, trauma. 

Desert Dunes, Image 4 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Desert Dunes, Image 5 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

It is from my husband’s own severe chronic Depression that I realized I created the constructed artistic reality selective blur series, Desert Dunes, 2020-2021. It was not for many months after editing, shooting, organizing, cutting, story boarding, and selecting that I realized what this body of work was about. This body of work was created as my way to process not only the isolation I felt at my husband’s years of silence while trying to help him when he would come in and out of depressive states that would make him isolate himself from everything, as well as how from the moment I met him that, regardless of sexuality or gender, he was my person. He is my beautiful, loving, empathetic, compassionate, caring, and constantly struggling favorite human being on this planet devoted to help persons with disabilities and fighting for all of our rights. A true champion, but also a fellow sufferer, and one whom for years veered to silence as his default. Through years of growth, talking, therapy, and nature immersion we realized that being neurodivergent with unseen disabilities is only a small part of our identities. This small part leaves behind such an intense collateral beauty, that often we miss this beauty—the beauty of our love, our devoted partnership, and journey into the unknown and sometimes seemingly baron spaces of our world. It is in these seemingly baron spaces devoid of life that life at its most beautiful, simple, and majestic. It flourish. 

Desert Dunes, Image 6 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Desert Dunes, Image 7 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

It is in the Desert Dunes where I truly recognized the beauty of my husband, our situation, and his constant need to be close to the wilderness. It is behind the lens and behind the brush while working on this series that these beautiful imperfections became perfectly imperfect. It is with large amounts of love, compassion, immense patience, sustenance, and air that we flourish alone and together. I realize you are probably asking yourself “is she talking about her relationship with her partner or the planet?”…my answer would be both, and now you know. Nomadic Creation and Immersion Into Nature, led to the Desert Dunes breakthroughs and a true understanding of the isolation my partner feels daily struggling with his depression, as well as what I feel myself when I sometimes unable to reach him. Our place in our deep love and dedication to helping protect these wild spaces we are drawn to. Our place on this planet made more clear the longer we go to the seemingly remote spaces in our van, Lucky.

Desert Dunes, Image 8 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Desert Dunes, Image 9 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

SO, big surprise we decided to live, work 100% remotely from @LuckySquatch: our converted sprinter van that we finally are about to finish revamping to carry my photo gear, sketch paper, fibers art, work stuff, training stuff, and living stuff. You will be able to read all about it here, see it if you subscribe to my Twitch account, @NORNSLIFE_ART, where you can watch me create live in nature and hear a bit about the projects that I have coming up and will be working on Summer 2021. My partner and I are fully vaccinated, but will be in the backcountry for the most part except visiting “framily” (friend that are family) on the way who are also safely vaccinated, and super careful like us. 

Desert Dunes, Image 10 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Desert Dunes, Image 11 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Over the next couple weeks, I will be slammed packing the van studio, packing the rest of my studio into a temperature controlled storage unit with my unsold pieces, packing our house up to put into storage, and getting ready to leave on our Summer 2021 trip by the first week of June 2021. I can’t wait to share the ups, the down, the stress, and all the feels of everything with all of you.

Desert Dunes, Image 12 of 12, 2020-2021. NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Best,

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, MFA & MA

Originally posted Apr 5, 2021.

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, CONTINUE THE FIGHT, Self-Portrait #1 of 5, 04/05/21

Black, Asian, Mixed, and white feminists have spent countless hours theorizing the “position” of the woman in the world. The differentiation of treatment between the races and sexes has been a study for decades. It is from these differentiations that we are unique, where our cultural heritage lies, and makes us beautiful. From these cultural identifiers stem formations of self, which facilitate the personifications of belonging, specifically within gender roles. This is where Feminists Standpoint Theory becomes essential, as it enables the way in which women have been each uniquely objectified and have faced oppression for no other reason than their gender identifier to be bright to light, and then enables women to rebuke against these oppressions.

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, CONTINUE THE FIGHT, Self-Portrait #2 of 5, 04/05/21

Through the observations and interpretations of what it “means” to be a woman within each woman’s ethnic community is where different patterns of treatment based on race and cultural orientation present themselves. Racism and the objectification of the woman, for many, pervasively permeates cultural and racial barriers. With many cultures, particularly those that have a history of colonization, the treatment of each woman becomes significantly more severe the darker the skin of the woman. “Therefore, one role for Black female intellectuals it to produce facts and theories about the Black female experience that will clarify a Black woman’s standpoint for Black women. In other words, Black feminist thought contains observations and interpretations about Afro-American womanhood that describe and explain different expressions of common themes”(Collins, Pp.S16). A continuing process of self-defining and self-valuation of ones self as a woman begins to take place, where acknowledging, celebrating, and collectively supporting for one another’s individual rights as women becomes integral to the survival of humankind. Luckily, more men are now joining this fight as well, as they begin to listen to the arguments of women—which began over a century ago by suffragist fighting globally for the rights of women to be equal to that of men, leading a call of action for the change of men’s constant need to oppress women through their own fallible beliefs that women were weaker than men in all aspects of life save “tending the home”. Unfortunately, this fight for equality is still occurring a century later, where a woman’s life is still trying to be highjacked by white men, via our reproductive rights being voted on, and not having them be inherently our own individual choices. The United States was founded on systemically racist government, which was built on the genocide of the Indigenous Native American’s, Black African slaves stollen from their homes, and on the business of the oppression of the female sex. This oppression is still occurring, it is more hidden through the teachings of extremely right  wing conservative values, as well as through corporations telling women they need to look, wear, and or dress a specific way to be considered anything of value to society. This oppression and suppression is something we are in constant battle with throughout our lives. Namely, the prejudicial treatment that we receive on varying scales by men who think they have a right to opinion (hint, they don’t when it comes to a woman period).

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, CONTINUE THE FIGHT, Self-Portrait #3of 5, 04/05/21

The prejudicial and suppressive treatment of men towards women constantly makes women feel “Otherized” and this Otherization grows increasingly worse the darker a woman’s skin is. “Now. You know that no woman is a dog or a mule, but if folks keep making you feel that way, if you don’t have a mind of your own, you can start letting them tell you what you are” (Gwaltney, 1980: 152). When taking this into consideration, this self-definement and self-valuation are not luxuries—they are necessary for Black female survival. (Collins, Pp.S19)” This oppression women face is systemic and happens to women who occupy no matter their positions in society. Women’s lives are stemmed from this Standpoint theory of defining who and where women, specifically women of Color, and where/how they belong in the world at large. These divided and subjugated standpoints are most readily accepted in society because is it the easiest way for people to feel like they belong, empathize, and co-exist in society; through conformity and “keeping up with the status quo” of your neighbors. “The subjugated have a decent chance to be on to the god trick and all its dazzling-and, therefore, blinding-illuminations. “Subjugated” standpoints are preferred because they seem to promise more adequate, sustained, objective, transforming accounts of the world” (Haraway, Pp. 584). It is with the ability to “conform” that our backgrounds, history, and the formation of the way that women are assigned can survive in a misogynistic world, but in doing so women are then apart of the ableist oppression of their own sex, just as culpable, and their culpability enables the vicious cycle of women’s oppression to continue. The recognition of this oppression, the recognition of its gravity, and being purely wrong enables women to take a stand. As such, with higher thought the objectification and oppression of women further adds to our own drives to break down the racist ablest system; essentially adding kerosine on the fire for the Women’s Rights Movements. “Relativism is the perfect mirror twin of totalization in the ideologies of objectivity; both deny the stakes in location, embodiment, and partial perspective; both make it impossible as well”(Haraway, Pp.584). For every woman, our lives are unique; we each have different unique experiences, beliefs, and cultural background that are relative in our lives. It is from these relevances that we, as women are able to begin to recognize patterns of subjugation, racism, misogynistic, and historical patriarchal oppression. It is through acknowledgment of our own unique individual experiences of these horrid acts of suppression that we are unified, able to come together, and fight for one-another through our own individuals strength and collective strengths as a whole. 

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, CONTINUE THE FIGHT, Self-Portrait #4 of 5, 04/05/21

 As female artists, we must use whatever means necessary to take our own power back, and continue to fight for the rights and protection of all women. For myself, using my body, specifically its physicality within my own work is essential in my own personal fights stemmed from lived experience to take control back. I fight with myself as subject within my own work, know that if you are not yet able to do this, I am here, I carry you with me, and that I fight not just for myself but for the rights and beautiful individualities of all women. 

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, CONTINUE THE FIGHT, Self-Portrait #5 of 5, 04/05/21

Best,

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD

Bibliography:

Collins, Patricia Hill. “Learning from the outsider within: The sociological significance of Black feminist thought.” Social problems 33, no. 6 (1986): s14-s32.

Harding, Sandra. Whose science? Whose knowledge?. Cornell University Press, 2016.

Haraway, Donna. “Situated knowledges: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective.” Turning points in qualitative research: Tying knots in a handkerchief 2003 (2003): 21-46.

Film: “A Question of Silence”  create by Marleen Gorris, (1983).

Originally posted Mar 24, 2021.

Inclusivity is something I learned from my bio Mom, Dr. Sandra Ellen Colombo-Stempien, and it was from growing up in a mixed racial family that I learned what love is. Love is accepting, acknowledging, and celebrating your differences. I also learned this lesson from a second Mama, Mrs. Cynthia Murray Cook Brassert Bowman Burgoyne. It was from this amazing woman, who could not bear children of her own, and adopted all of her children including myself and biological sister after my Mom’s untimely passing when I was eighteen years of age. Both of these women had flaws, one with flaws that are extreme and an inability to work on our relationship, and the other was from a deep fear of losing more of ones she most loved in the world. Each, in their own way shaped the woman I became today. Growing up in a multi-lingual and multi-racial family, although I myself am white presenting, enabled me to truly see that love knows no bounds when we recognize and celebrate our differences, and love one another as human beings. This is one of the major reasons why I have been so outraged by the hate crimes that have occurred, particularly towards Black individuals, indigenous persons, and other people of color (BIPOC), as well as my fellow LGBTQIA+ community (I am a proud member of as a Cis-Gender Female Bi-Sexual).

The racism that has been allowed to go unchecked due to our ex-president’s past four year racist, misogynistic and fear mongering reign has continued, and escalated, long standing racial division and has embolden many to engage in hate crimes against women, BIPOC individuals, and people of the LGBTQIA+ community. This got me thinking about the Feminist Lens, as well as Feminist writers, and how this literature could possibly help bring some healing to you all. As such, I decided to write this blog post for all y’all out there (you know who you are) looking to learn, grown, and become better humans. I also write this to honor all those of color, multi-cultural, multi-racial backgrounds like myself, and my hope is that in doing my part to continue to speak out and continue this conversation partly fueled by my honest rage at these heinous crimes….but mostly from my heart wanting people’s pain to be healed and racism to be eradicated that I am able to make a small contribution to the #AntiRacist movements currently on-going. So here goes….

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, MFA, Untitled Portrait, March 2021

Ien Ang’s 2001 essay, I’m a feminist but… ‘Other’ Women and Postnational Feminism, brings an interesting perspective to the bilateral unity of what it means to be two different races, some white/caucasian mix, and differential thoughts of the races. Ang believes firmly that her being a Chinese American woman enables her to voice her opinions in a way that opens up the acceptance for all Chinese American Women. “As a woman of Chinese descent, I suddenly find myself in a position in which I can turn my ‘difference’ into intellectual and political capital, where ‘white’ feminists invite me to raise my ‘voice’, qua a non-white woman, make myself head.”(Ang, Pp.394) This statement rings true, is extremely intriguing when considering my sense of self coming from quite a mixed background, knowing that every woman comes from a different situation, and has different uniquely lived experiences in our own social atmospheres. The belief that women are united through a global sisterhood solely because we all share the same anatomy falls short. Every woman’s racial, cultural, and sexual background is unique, which brings to question if the whole rationality that we are bonded by our plumbing extremely controversial, as some women are born with the wrong genitalia, and so I think that this set of thought processes needs to be updated to today’s vastly different personification of what gender, and womanhood is.  The short answer is that it doesn’t. The idea that our differences and similarities can’t be solved through the action of discussion is also one of Ang’s statements, which in the end is circumstantial due to our own lived experiences, and backgrounds. There are a ton of highly educated white Women that are racist and misogynistic as fuck because they felt they had to conform to the patriarchy in order to get what and where they wanted to in their lives. 

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, Untitled, How Loud Do I Have To Be?, Self-Portrait, December 2016

I believe that the only way to truly unite women is to be able to look at all of our differences and recognize the intersectional layers of oppression that exist as a result of those differences; through acceptance, through love, and the unification of this shared pain should come in the fight for #EqualPayNow, #EqualPayForWomen, and total equality within society at all levels. The unification of women comes in our coming together to fight for our rights including the right to control our own bodies, which is the most important, and is utterly disgusting that we are still having to fight for this right solely because we aren’t men/identify as male. The lenses, historically, that society were taught to see through were dictated by the misogynistic patriarchy that historically have fought to suppress women on all levels, make us feel, believe, and act less-than. Unfortunately, these historical taught values are laden full-up with prejudices, influenced by generations of racist white hatred, bigotry, and upbringing. Luckily, what was taught can be unlearned, which is an essential undertaking, and would facilitate a world that could grow from kindness and acceptance. 

Ang jumps from racial wars, unknown placement of mixed women, to Madonna’s ability to use her sexuality as a tool to dominate men and rape; essentially using her body and it’s various levels of nudity in performance to take back Female Power from the patriarchy and society’s historical view of the Woman’s body for something to consume or own (ancient dowries brought with women in marriage and women seen as mere property without rights comes to mind as an archaic example). It is quite baffling that most people wouldn’t connect Madonna wearing her lingerie on the outside purely to take power back from the male. Further more, “the slogan does not speak to men (who are commanded to take ‘No’ for an answer), but also implicitly summons Women to take up the fight, to join together in this fight that states when a Woman says ‘No’ she means No when she says it.(Ang, Pp.398) This brings to question, male artists historically using the female body, the female form in their own art to gain notoriety within the art community, and gain immense amounts of wealth once successful. The women, who sat for the these men for hours, were often subjected to sexual harassment and received no royalties as the art world was and remains a male dominated forum. Female artists work four times as hard, have to put up with sexist misogynistic bullshit, we get paid a fraction of the amount as men for our work, and we are lucky to end up in the heavy hitting galleries or museums even if we use our own naked bodies within our art. This makes me think of the awesome badass Japanese female photographer Yurie Nagashima. Nagashima once one of the few women in the 1990s who were able to fight their way into Japan’s traditional photography world, which historically and then, presently was dominated by men and their male masters.(Aperture 225, Pp.72) Nagashima was one of the few Japanese Women Photographers that blatantly confronted the historic gender expectations of the Woman as had been previously established by male Japanese photographers. Her self-portraiture assisted artistic reality photographs were and are still ground breaking, using her own body, nude, and clothed to grapple with her own female identity and continue to speak out for the rights of the Japanese Woman. She is a total badass and y’all need to check out her work!

Yurie Nagashima, Self-Portrait (the problems of ‘B’), 2002

Yurie Nagashima, Self-Portrait, 1993

Yurie Nagashima, Self-Portrait, 1993

A woman’s femininity, frail qualities, which are often overlooked in men due to #ToxicMasculinity upbringings is usually used as a justification for rape, hate crimes, and is absolutely bullshit! It doesn’t matter how feminine, tiny, and or beautiful a women is or what she is wearing. No means NO! It is egregious, when a Woman or any human says no to sex and is raped. These toxic men that partake in ignoring the ‘No’ to deserve to be imprisoned for life. These men fear Women, they fear what will happen once we all recognize, and believe what has been true all along; WE ARE NOT INFERIOR. We deserve equal pay, equal rights, control of our own bodies, and to not have to deal with the bullshit of to the toxic masculine gaze any longer.

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, Untitled, Are You Listening?, Self-Portrait, Fall 2016

Get it together America and END THIS RACIST* BULLSHIT! *and, while we’re at it, the misogynist, ableist, classist, homophobic, every other -ism/-ist.

#EndThisRacistBullshit #EndSexistBullshit #StopAsianHate #BlackLivesMatter #WomenSupportingWomen #EqualPayForWomen

Sincerely,

NORNSLIFE ART | DACD, MFA

Bibliography:

Ien Ang, “I’m a feminist but… ‘Other’ Women and Postnational Feminism,” in Kum-Kum Bhavnani, ed., Feminism and ‘Race’ (Oxford University Press, 2001), 394-409

Simone de Beauvoir, “Introduction,” in The Second Sex, translated by H. M. Parshley (New York: Vintage Books, 1949, 1952), xxv-xlii. 

Steiner, A. L. “On Feminism.” APERTURE 225 (2016): 72-77.

Originally posted Feb 21, 2021.

Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Untitled Self-Portrait, 2021

Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Untitled Self-Portrait, 2021

There are many different approaches to feminism, feminist thought, and feminist theory. From country to country there is a history of very different perspectives of what feminism, feminist thought, and feminist theory are…West vs East…North vs South. Joan Scott brings up numerous examples arguing that men and women are the same, “sameness equality is a requirement” (Scott, p267). Through this, Scott finds a new approach to the differences in feminism, and I find myself critiquing these opinions through my own specific lens. This lens is of a strong, female artist athlete feminist, who comes from a family including persons of all races, ethnicities, and colors. This multi-cultural lens of feminism that dominates my mind often makes me take a retrospectively harsh lens in regards to my own creative work, as I often find my sense of self-being dominated by an anthropological view of who I believe I am, where I call home, and my particular artistic communication dominated by a feminist upbringing. 

Feminists have long used clothing as a way to speak out to society about whom they are and that they will not be defined by negative societal norms. The way we dress matters, just as the way we create matters. It is our signature way that we communicate to the world—courage is essential. When contemplating current fashion, we have begun to see a lot of fashion artists making formal wear out of sweatshirt material; we are presented with suits that seek to critique the historical formal dress wear that dominated the better portion of the twentieth century, and in its’ many variations including wool. Dress historically, has historically been a way human beings were taught to define the sexes. Dress was important, there was a proper place for each gender, and you were seen as “rebellious” if you did not. Women were raised to believe they weren’t as physically or psychologically strong as men, that it was our jobs to get married to a man in order to have kids, and that a woman’s place was inside the home. Men were raised to not show all their emotions, that they could not be sensitive, that they had to provide, and be tough. Men wore pants and Women cumbersome dresses. We thankfully realized not too long ago, in retrospect with the entire human timeline, that these old archaic beliefs were garbage. Women were/have always had the ability to be just as physically and psychology as strong as men, but it was how I woman was raised based on societal definitions of the gender that defined these limitations with most, and there existed some women who had the privilege to be able to rebuke against these definitions set by the patriarchy and not depend on men for. This brings me to the prolific photographic work of Germaine Krull, and in particular her image, Nude, 1935. This image is so empowering, the viewer is presented with a naked women baring her breasts, while wearing leather gloves, squeezing her neck, and chest demonstrating that sensuality and power had always been present within a woman. This image is bold, extremely controversial for being created in the 1930’s, and created be a female, even rarer, a widely published photographer (even cooler, a women of the Bauhaus). During this time, a woman couldn’t live alone without being married or having a same sex roommate without it being seen as a lady of impropriety. It was a woman’s job to get married, bare children, service her husband, and kids. In the later twentieth century, this principle was finally recognized as a sexist and outdated belief system. Now, in the twenty-first century, this outdated archaic principles no longer dominate most woman’s worlds. It is not a woman’s job to “only” have kids or take care of a home and women are just as capable as being as successful as men. However, the reality is that women still get paid less than men, we get chosen far less to be exhibited in National Museums, and women have had to deal with far more shit than men to achieve the same goals. If you take notice, the most prolific, well known female artists are the ones that use self as subject naked or create other women nude, that are the female artists who are represented and well known all rebuked against the system and the patriarchy by demonstrating publicly that their bodies were their own. This is a fight us women are still fighting today and it is now 2021.

Germaine Krull, Nude (Nu), 1935

Germaine Krull, Nude (Nu), 1935

Since politics outline that women and men are the same, Scott denotes that some people believe that this brings forth equality, which remains unrealized. The biological differences of men and women are what give women separate unique identities from our counterparts. What Scott does not touch on is the hormonal. The only difference is a number denoted by scientists (historically men, as women weren’t allowed to practice medicine), this number is what determines if you will be categorized as Cis Male or Cis Female at birth, and the sexual organ/s are the first thing to be taken into account when babies are born. However, hormones fluctuate depending on our diet, how physically active we are, as we age, and do not remain the same. They are in a status of almost continually fluctuation especially in athletes. There are some women that have high testosterone levels and high estrogen levels, others have high estrogen and extremely low testosterone levels, and or equal levels. here are some men who are extremely large, muscular, and have high numbers of estrogen with normal levels of testosterone. There are also men that have equal levels of both, and or have high testosterone and low estrogen numbers. As such, you could take a more anthropological perspective about gender, and sex. Regardless of physical biology that might define “men” and “women”, gender is socially constructed, and how one dresses allows us to define our own identity while pushing back against societal constructions of identity that are rooted in In this sense, I completely disagree with Scott’s statement, “that if men and women in their specific gender groups continue to realize their differences, that we are not equal to one another, and that our identities are completely different, we can then begin to fix the identities that history has given men and women politically over millennia”(Scott, p. 265). We must, instead, recognize that we are each unique while accepting everyones’ definition of their own personhood and acknowledge the essential recognition of history as to not forget, and continue to fight against its ableist and racist confinement. We must evolve as human beings with our own rights to express ourselves and be loved however we the humans of planet Earth to find the healthiest manifestation for our own self.

It is not our sameness that gives us equality but our acceptance for whom individuals are, and, most essentially, for our uniqueness. The combination of our differences makes us unified, yet separate entities, which make up non-traditional wholes. It is these many unique combinations that enable different creative perspectives, visual art that heals the soul, calls the heart, and opens the mind. Our own callings allow for our own personal evolutions paired with the humans we surround ourselves with, the colleagues we surround ourselves with, and the friendships we cultivate that facilitate familial bonds so strong that they are as blood. The choices we make matter. The kindness we demonstrate towards other beings, the love we give, the courage we demonstrate, the honesty we uphold, the care we take, and most importantly the vulnerability we share is what gives us our humanity. This is the fuel behind the physical act we put into creation; art is love.

Yours,

NORSNLIFE ART | Daniellá A. Colombo-Dougovito, MFA

Bibliography:

Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color (1994).” (2005).

Anzaldúa, Gloria, and AnaLouise Keating, eds. This bridge we call home: Radical visions for transformation. Routledge, 2013.

Originally posted Feb 9, 2021.

A Cognitive Processing of The Writings of Cherríe L. Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa & Ruth Frankenburg

Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Untitled Self-Portrait, 2021.

Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Untitled Self-Portrait, 2021.

Since this country’s founding under British Colonialist rule to post American Revolution when the United States of America was formed, our country—throughout it’s history—has been dominated by a seemingly impossible divide among socially constructed races due to the egregious slave trade, and deeper rooted classism, misogynistic, and patriarchal divisions. This divide has made the discussion of a created US Third World Feminism essential to broach an academic and progressively open dialogue about the essential necessity for feminism and acceptance of all humans no matter their gender or race. “I urge each one of us to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lies there” (Moraga, Pp.xlvii). It isn’t until we truly acknowledge the injustices that have occurred against women and BIPOC that will are then readily able to recognize these injustices—in all places of our government and country—the division and segregation that deeply divides our countries inhabitants; yet, there is hope that these old fashioned notions will be abolished. This was most recently demonstrated with this past year’s #BlackLivesMatter movement. This essential hope continues to exist through our democracy not failing in the 2020 election with the election of the first female Black and Asian Vice President, Madam Vice President Kamala Harris. For the first time in our country’s 200+ year history, a woman has finally been elected to one of the highest offices in our government, thereby paving the way for future women to continue to hold and dominate in positions of power.

The wretched political climate of misinformation that came from the 45th President of America has led the way for the next political, human rights, and creative movements. More people than ever came to protest for Women’s Rights, Black Lives, LGBTQIA+, and Climate Change. As long as the cyclical historical tendency for humans to forget and for history to repeat itself does not continue, we will all need to continue to work towards full equality, and acceptance of every human decent human being in not just our own country, but the world as a whole. Thinking about this makes it obliquely obvious that our country set itself up to govern by the official separation and segregation of its citizens—perpetuated by checking a box speaking to each persons individualities, which announce historically where you fall within our governments value systems. If you are a woman, you get paid less than a man; if you are Black or Latina woman, you get paid less than white and Asian women. This separation leads some mis-led and mis-informed individuals to believe that they are entitled to more privilege than others. This privilege is not only a benefit to their financial and economic standing, but seeks to gain value upon the oppression of those deemed as less than in society and seeks to further strengthen the egregious outdated beliefs of segregation of categorized or deemed as Other. The need of our government to classify race speaks to an important history that must be remembered as to not be repeated, but also perpetuates the belief in some that this gives you power of those whom look, and or are different than white and heterosexual. “In other words, any system of differentiation shapes those upon whom it bestows privilege, as well as those it oppresses. At a time in the histories of both the US and UK when we are culturally encouraged that white people should view ourselves as racially and culturally ‘neutral’ rather than as members or facially and culturally privileged or dominant groups, it is double important to look at the ‘racialness’ of white experience” (Frankenburg, p.51). It is to say that for years since the Europeans’ migrated from to the America’s that they considered themselves to be the dominant Puritan peoples, whose lives meant more than the Indigenous Americans that were seen as less than due to the Puritans ignorance, lack of knowledge, and insight into their languages, cultures, and vast knowledge of how to live on this land planet harmoniously. Have the genocide and theft of Indigenous American lands, white people then brought the slave trade to the America’s.

Prejudice is taught, but it also can be unlearned. Fear of being different, and or fear of the unknown fuels prejudices. This is why education, communication, and seeking truth through thorough researching of all historical scientific art and evidence is essential. As a child, you have simple wants and needs; to learn, grow, make friends, and play. As a child, you see others as part of your own—the human race—with unique and beautiful differences. It is not until events occur that exposed to the existence of racism, sexism, ableism, etc.—likely through an elder or peer making nasty comments—that present you with the histories of races and their place in human history. “When I was about eight or nine and walking with my uncle down the street and kind of mutually bumping into a Black woman. I just said ‘Excuse me’, and she said ‘Don’t ever say excuse me to a nigger. If you bump into them or they bump into you, it’s always their fault. And I said ‘How is it their fault if I bumped into them?” (Frankenburg, p.62-3). It is from the racial slanderous (and even some seemingly-innocuous stereotypes) remarks that children are taught prejudice. It is not that we are born prejudiced, racism is taught, learned, as Darwin said, we are a product of Nature vs. Nurture, and this is where our evolution stems from. Many people have the ability to separate their own beliefs from those of negative societal norms that push towards people conforming to societal belief systems and structures that historically were created by the misogynistic patriarchal ruling classes during the formation of governing bodies, but a great majority conforms to these beliefs for fears of hate crimes, and Otherization. As artists, we must fight continually towards the eradication of racism that Otherizes genders and races seen as anything other than white and heterosexual. “We have got to know each other better and teach each other our ways, our views, if we’re to remove the scales (“seeing when they are critical-Quintanales”) and get the work done (Cade Bambara, p.xlii).” If we allow systemic prejudices to facilitate an effect on the way we perceive different races then we miss out on a lot of life, knowledge, and understanding that enables us to gain a greater grasp intellectually of what it means to be a human being and our place in the world we live in. Lack of understanding and knowledge leads to cruelty, ignorance, injustice, and a degrading cyclical cycle of misogyny and racism.

Hannah Wilke, Marxism and Art: Beware of Fascist Feminist, 1977.

As a female artist athlete that comes from a mixed racial family, which includes persons of many different races, sexualities, and belief systems this has always instilled an innate curiosity that in turn has fueled scholarly research to facilitate my artistic practices. Learning about the world through others lived experiences, stories, my own experiences, research, and growth have been my truth. Science is truth just as much as art is truth. The purity of moments so intimate, it as if one would shy away, and yet, a perfectly imperfect encapsulated moment exists from the physical act of creation. It is feminist artists like Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, and Cindy Sherman’s rawness that makes mark on the essential necessity of have conversations about race and gender. When I consider Beware of Fascist Feminism, 1977 created by Hannah Wilke, I remain cognizant of the consistent fight that must occur in myself, as well as other female artists, so that our bodies, our skin, our beings remain our own and can communicate how we see fit dependent on the subject matter in order to break down the negative societal stigmas surrounding race and gender; so as, to move forward, to grow, to listen, and to own our strengths. We must continue the conversations and not become complacent. 

Yours,

NORNSLIFE | DACD

Works Cited:

Frankenberg, Ruth. “Growing up white: feminism, racism and the social geography of childhood.” Feminist Review 45, no. 1 (1993): 51-84.

Gunaratnam, Y. “Oxford readings in feminism: feminism and'race'.” (2002): 189-190.

Moraga, Cherríe, and Gloria Anzaldúa, eds. This bridge called my back: Writings by radical women of color. Suny Press, 2015.

Originally posted Jan 26, 2021.

A Whimsical Horror, Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

A Whimsical Horror, Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

Sanative Refraction

By Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, MFA

Problem Statement

Sanative Refraction is a personal exploration of the potential for healing, empowerment, and transformation when art is used to facilitate cognitive retraining to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Severe Anxiety and Panic Attack Disorder. This exhibition of artwork will be composed of large-scale amalgamations: Sculpture, photography, and encaustic paintings will serve as physical representations of my healing process.

Purpose Statement

When a catastrophe occurs in an individual’s life and that individual is not afforded the opportunity to process the event(s), the physical and emotional trauma alter the pain receptors in the brain, which increases the risk of triggering PTSD as the “emotional wound festers” (Bovin et al., 2016). In this constant hyper-reactive state, a person is likely to experience harrowing flashbacks, which in turn increase the potential for further physical and emotional injury. In reliving the trauma, the distinction between reality and memory is blurred until the flashback is over.

Sanative Refraction is a personal journey into the healing process that explores the connection of memory and reality and the subsequent disconnection. By separating the mind from self—memory from reality—in a state of pure difference, the mind is allowed to be in an authentic moment before the signifier and signified (Delueze, 2014, p. 132). My work, like the state of pure difference, dives into the space before the brain recognizes intention (signifier)⎯the space in between⎯where my mind is separated from the actions of creation my body is performing. This space is where memory and reality converge (signified), and therefore it creates a space for healing through the act of creation. Through the combination of photography, sculpture, paint, and poetry, the viewer will be confronted with a physical and painful, yet cathartic, deconstruction of the memory and a reconstitution of the healing process. By abstractly photographing, burning, and painting the memories of my traumas, I visually represent the reconstruction of my pain during the healing processes. The pain, anger, and rage will be represented through fire, burning, melting, and other techniques I use to create this body of work. Artwork in this series will represent the daily struggles of coping with the past and what it means for my journey to healing in the future. By connecting with the essence of the emotions experienced during this process, this series seeks to impart, on a visceral level, varying psychological and metaphysical responses in the viewer as they experience my process of healing, as demonstrated by the raw product of the work I will create.

Winter to Summer Series; Encaustic Paintings with Film Photographs (Mixed Media), Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

Significance Statement

The intrusive reflections, flashbacks, and nightmares that coexist with trauma are of great interest and expressed in the following ways in Sanative Refraction: (a) anger, anxiety, and healing grief through charred wood; (b) tears of joy and sadness in different patinas; © encaustic pigments—browns to blues to yellows, winter to summer—as an abstract reference to psychological healing; (d) photography that captures the brief pauses to breathe, and (e) my poetry, for deeper contemplation. As a whole, Sanative Refraction is a way to further help me process the extremely heightened emotions I have had to find a way to coexist with. For instance, heightened arousal often causes immense anxiety when leaving my house to be around others in public. Through Sanative Refraction, I will represent the stages of my mental state as I begin to recognize—through each brush stroke, every layer of encaustic pigment—that there is beauty in life at all stages, and that integration back into society will be okay. Ultimately, I will be okay, I will heal, and I will survive. Focusing completely on the process of this work—such as creating a photograph of a personal moment and concentrating on nothing except what is inside the frame —allows me to be comfortable with the possibility that everything will be okay. The resulting pieces are physical representations of capturing these moments—moments associated with past trauma or previous pain—and reconstructing them to represent new, stronger memories.

Spattered on every page of our collective history is evidence of constant battles waged. We have fought for land, for resources, for life, to protect those we love, and to survive. These past battles are not unlike our current tragedies, and with them coexist the experiences of those who have experienced the greatest traumas. In 400 B.C., Greek historian Herodotus wrote an account of one such person, an Athenian named Epizelus who suddenly lost his eyesight in the midst of battle when he witnessed an ally being killed in combat. He remained sightless for many years. Herodotus stated that this “blindness” was not due to a wound, but occurred because of the trauma Epizelus had witnessed (Felton, 2014). Later, Hippocrates recollected soldiers having “night terrors” of the battles they had fought and survived (Hempel, Felthous, & Meloy, 2003). The Icelandic Saga of Gísli Súrsson describes post-battle nightmares. Ramayana, an Indian text dating to approximately 2,500 years ago, depicts the demon Marrich suffering from hyper- reactive states, reliving the trauma he survived, and exhibiting extreme avoidance behavior—all common symptoms of PTSD.

Numerous cases of individuals presenting with extreme despair and anxiety were reported in Europe in the 1600s, and Dr. Johannes Hofer of Switzerland (Battesti, 2016) is credited with naming the condition “nostalgia.” Similar cases were being diagnosed simultaneously by unconnected doctors in Germany, Spain, and France when examining their military patients. Josef Leopold Auenbrugger, an Austrian physician, also wrote about this sickness in trauma-ridden soldiers in Inventum Novum.(Auenbrugger, 1966). During the U.S. Civil War, “nostalgia” (e.g., PTSD) was commonly diagnosed. Not until the First World War was the terminology changed from “nostalgia” to “shell shock,” and later to “battle fatigue” or “combat fatigue” during the Second World War (Mott, 1919). In 1968, the diagnosis of combat fatigue was removed from The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (2nd ed.; DSM-II, American Psychiatric Association [APA], 1968), thereby limiting veterans’ ability to receive treatment. In 1980, the APA published the DSM-III, which recognized PTSD as a diagnosis. Moreover, it was recognized that PTSD could occur outside of military settings; survivors of rape, child abuse, assault, serious illness, and other traumatic events were all at risk for developing symptoms.

Immense anxiety arises from being diagnosed with an unseen disability. To others you may seem okay or “normal,” because your trauma is not visible; yet PTSD can be a debilitating disability that many struggle with daily. The constant anxiety of possibly having an attack, hurting yourself, not being safe, or someone trying to hurt you when this occurs is an ever present struggle. I find relief in the bending, hammering, burning, cutting, and charring of the materials used in Sanative Refraction. I go into a flow state that enables me to just be present and find solace. This inherently renders Sanative Refraction an ideal project for me to continue my journey of healing. The separation of hyper anxieties allows me to recognize that what I feel is rationally irrational because of what I have survived—but also that history is not doomed to repeat itself, and through my work I can continue to heal while achieving a new normalcy.

As the terminology evolves, the symptoms remain the same (e.g., anxiety, exhaustion, flashbacks, night terrors, and loss of hearing and/or eyesight), although they vary in magnitude. Society’s method of treatment has continued to evolve as knowledge about the condition has grown to best meet patients’ needs. Yet little academic or therapeutic attention has been paid to art therapy and its potential ability to aid in the recovery process as a tool to help “re-normalize” the brain. An analysis of the use of art therapy by Schouten et al. (2015) reports positive outcomes by demonstrating “a significant decrease in psychological trauma symptoms” and depression (Schouten et al., p. 1).

Art, as a cathartic process, has the ability to cross cultural, religious, medical, and hierarchical borders. This allows the viewer to witness the results within the work and the positive effects on the artist. Scores of artists have captured the internal and external struggles of mental illness, yet many are not able to extend the process beyond trauma to healing by starting the therapy process.

Sanative Refraction is the physical representation of my exploration of healing through creation. The combination of multiple art mediums and processes, both representative and abstract, depicts the separation of memory and reality and its subsequent reconstruction. This work will highlight internal conversations about reconciliation and acceptance of past events to reach a place of acceptance and healing. By blurring the lines between photography, sculpture, paint, and poetry, viewers will be immersed in a multimodal dialogue with healing and creative processes. The work’s visceral quality confronts the viewer and asks them to reconsider their preconceptions about victims of trauma. Through the viewing process, ideally, the viewer will leave with greater empathy for the human experience of trauma, as well as the ability to find the strength we all possess in order to process and handle it in a healthy way.

Transformative Perceptions (Above) & What Remains Behind (Below), Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

Literature Review

A number of artists have informed this body of work, including Jeremy Deller, Michael De Feo, Sally Mann, Rebecca Norris Webb, N. Teddy Goldsworthy-hanner, John William Keedy, Rinko Kawauchi, and Charles Burchfield. I will explain in some detail how each artist affects my creative processes. Love, loss, heartache, dream states, and healing are central themes of myriad artists working across the artistic disciplines of visual art and literature. The artists I have chosen have had a profound impact not only on how I view the art-making process, but on life and healing as a whole.

Only recently have contemporary artists such as Edward Honaker, John William Keedy, Katie Joy Crawford, and Mary F. Calvert openly created work about anxiety and PTSD as it relates to sexuality, gender, and healing. Clavert’s documentary photographic series focuses on rape survivors in the military (Calvert, 2016). This recent refocusing of contemporary issues has further pushed the work of Barbara Kruger into more contemporary concentration of art as social commentary and as activism to the forefront of importance in our currently evolving culture. Few artists have broached this topic as a self-identified survivor and used their work to guide the viewer through the personal and volatile healing process, which I will do in this project.

Sally Mann’s photographs capture the raw emotion of her subject matter. Through the lens, Mann has influenced my art; I too write poetry during my physical creation processes. Sanative Refraction will be influenced by the process of writing and creating, similar to what Mann undertook in her 2006 series, Photographs and Poetry. Mann started her visual art production with poetry. For example, she wrote (Mann & Wood, 2005):

To evoke what, like a dream, was lost only seconds ago, only decades ago,

To recover and clarify the deposits, grace so fragile, so various.

This poem is paired with an image of a white sheet pulled up between a pair of closed thighs to cover a woman’s vagina, using a tight crop and straight-on vantage point. After each poem, the paired images are psychologically moving and deeply contemplative. This process of writing before and during creation has heavily influenced my creative processes during my MFA work and will continue to do so for Sanative Refraction.

Rebecca Norris Webb was originally a poet and became a photographer after realizing that she could create imagery based on her poetry and vice versa. This realization came after a year-long trip, as she traveled with a camera to work through the writer’s block she had been struggling with since finishing school. Norris Webb’s Ghost Mountain from My Dakota (2012) is particularly inspirational, as Norris Webb created it to process the loss of her brother, to help make sense of this loss, and to begin to heal (Webb & Norris Webb, 2014). Ghost Mountain is a street photograph of a garage door that has a mountain and tree cover painted on the surface. There is a delicacy to the framing of the garage door, demonstrated through the soft, bright, diffuse natural lighting; this delicacy is something I will seek to emulate in some of my own imagery, as well as the delicacy of how Webb writes her poems and pairs them with the images.

As a part of my own healing process, I have written poetry as an outlet. I have captured night terrors, flashbacks, and panic attacks in the subsequent moments when trauma is relived as a way to further process the severe trauma I have survived. Throughout Sanative Refraction, text will be paired with the created pieces to guide the audience’s psychological dialogue. The dialogue between my written word and sculpture will seek to focus attention on the external societal stigmas attached to being a severe trauma survivor who is recovering and learning to live with PTSD.

Michael De Feo’s art as social commentary directly relates to his desire for adults and children to rediscover their surroundings and gain a fresh perspective on how they view the world through his Alphabet City (2005) street art (C100, 2006). Each image is documentary street photography that pairs well with his mental model (i.e., social commentary) and use of aesthetics to grab the attention of children and allow adults to consider a different perspective.

Like De Feo, Sanative Refraction will present a personal journey of healing that is not often represented. By blurring the multitude of included media in a unique way, viewers will be immersed in the series and compelled to contemplate their preconceptions of trauma and healing. In doing so, Sanative Refraction will provide the space needed to allow individuals to question their own beliefs and, in turn, connect with the process of healing from trauma in their own way.

Jeremy Deller is a multimedia artist whose work falls within the realm of art for activism and social commentary. Deller’s presentation of a car that had been bombed in a popular Baghdad market on Al-Mutanabbi Street demonstrates how a dialogue within the viewer in a safe space allows contemplation of the war and its impact. It Is What It Is: Conversations about Iraq (Thompson, 2015) breaks down the cultural barriers and stigmas that accompany being an American from the Middle East. This piece, and its presentation with open space around it, encourages open, free-flowing dialogue among its viewers. Deller’s hope was that his piece would be experiential for the viewer and not merely didactic by bringing a piece of the bombed-out truck back from Iraq and displaying it. This offered people the freedom to ask questions about sensitive subject matter. Through activism and art, and in a “safe-yet-confrontational” manner, Deller was able to break down societal and cultural barriers to encourage viewers to have increased compassion for the subject matter.

The texture and depth shown in the work of N. Teddy Goldsworthy-hanner has inspired me to recreate this technique using the encaustic medium in Sanative Refraction. This medium adds emphasis to the literal subject matter within each frame, thereby propelling each individual concept forward. Goldsworthy-hanner’s Arbitrary Memories (2006) demonstrates how photographs can be married with mixed media to represent not only beauty, but also memory and strength. Goldsworthy-hanner uses everything she has experienced in life, on a very personal level, in each of her pieces—not only as an outlet, but also as a way to find beauty within herself as a woman and the life around her. Further, Goldsworthy-hanner attempts to break down the discourse of difference to yield a “positive different” (Goldsworthy-hanner, 2016) through her work, with the goal of effecting social change by helping individuals understand one another. By “a reawakening of our higher natures, we should and can rectify our relationships” because “it is the balance that ultimately will sustain us” (Goldsworthy-hanner, 2016).

John William Keedy, through his linguistically based concept, creates images that allow the viewer to understand what it is like to live with anxiety and panic attacks. In It’s Hardly Noticeable (Keedy, n.d.), he is able to capture the unseen—i.e., the emotions that are at the root of outward observed behavior. Throughout this series, he captures how anxiety can dictate daily life and the strategies to exert control over these behaviors (“John William Keedy’s It’s Hardly Noticeable”, 2013). Further, Keedy demonstrates how the control one attempts to exert can spur greater “rationally irrational” fears and anxiety that surpass the standard definition of anxiety: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome” (Oxford University Press, 1982). Through the use of repetitive elements in his images, the viewer is given a window into various coping mechanisms for anxiety. The task repetition Keedy depicts shows how a person with anxiety may try to gain control in a world in which the lack of control is ever present (“John William Keedy’s It’s Hardly Noticeable”, 2013).

Trying to gain control and be comfortable around people is a constant struggle. My work, including Sanative Refraction, helps me process my traumas the way Keedy’s work did for him. Burning, bending, and melting help me gain control over the “rationally irrational” and adjust to being around people. The repetition of passing the torch and open flame across wood in Shou Sugi Ban, an ancient Japanese firing technique, produces a cathartic black char on the wood to depict an attempt to control anxiety. My use of repetition in my creative, aesthetic, artistic, and conceptual choices in my photography will and have been a way I gain control.

The concept of being alive in the moment dominates Rinko Kawauchi’s work. In The river embraced me (2016), Kawauchi created a series of documentary images inspired by memories of the people who live in Kumamoto, Japan (Dayman & Sandrey, 2018). In capturing these wild, intense memories in a single photograph, Kawauchi takes the viewer on a journey into vivid scenes full of flowers, forests, roads, and, most importantly, life.

Kawauchi’s commanding use of imagery to recreate memories is part of my inspiration to create the imagery that will be used in Sanative Refraction. The images used throughout my series recreate an anti-anxiety technique called “Five Things” by documenting what is seen while managing PTSD symptoms. This exercise helps anxiety and PTSD patients reduce and prevent symptoms. The process, which involves focusing on five available objects, repeating their names, and counting down five to one, lowers the heart rate and can prevent full panic attacks and episodes. Using a similar framework, I will abstractly represent the counting and control in the series. Images are captured from behind the lens while working through this strategy and as retroactive reconstructions, allowing reflection on the self-analysis of memory.

Inspired by the works of abstract painter Charles Burchfield, who represents landscapes and seasons, I will use seasons as a metaphor for transformation and healing. In works such as Spring Landscape with Trees and Pond (1947), Burchfield’s work elicits calm and healing through the use of mainly gray variations, with slight specific bits of subdued color to illustrate the beauty of the passing seasons (Weekly, 1993). Burchfield elegantly portrays the seasons as plants grow, die, and come back to life. Sanative Refraction is a visual journey through the deconstruction of memory and the reconstitution of self; using Burchfield as a guide to demonstrate melancholy emotions, the pieces in the series will blend imagery, sculpture, and encaustic to give the viewer insight into healing after trauma and leave space for the viewer to journey within themselves to understand what is possible.

As a result of these artists’ creative actions, their pieces represent pain and become a site of healing—not just for themselves, but also for those who directly interact with them. Viewers of Sanative Refraction will be afforded a similar space to confront the taboos of mental health and sexual/physical trauma. By presenting imagery, sculpture, painting, and text within an immersive space, with space between each piece, I will create room for an open dialogue between all present.

Amended Equilibrium (Above) & Bases 1-6 (Below), Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

Methodology

Sculpture in this series will consist primarily of wood and metal. The incorporated wood will feature the use of Shou Sugi Ban and be sealed with a combination of vegetable oil and urethane. Several large-scale paintings incorporating photographs shot on film and printed on silk will be included; the images will be fused to the canvas using an encaustic medium and strategically painted over with encaustic pigment. To create work that captures both the range of emotions and the intangible experiences of the event—yet also presents past trauma in a contemplative, healing fashion—I will start with words and present them, as Mann has, juxtaposed with my visual creations. This will occur through the actual space in between pieces, which will serve as a pause, enabling the viewer to consider each piece. The healing pauses will be represented through the combination of the actual space, the written words next to pieces, and use of the calming, cool tonal values of blue patinas and other colors. Sanative Refraction will seek to effect change—for the better—in viewers by demonstrating abstractly the changes of seasons that represent new growth and healing (winter-summer). Lastly, the space will be tailored to further the concept of healing through art by creating a journey that is immersive for the viewer.

A Whimsical Horror (Floor) & Transformative Perceptions (Wall/partial view), Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

Limitations

Sanative Refraction is an exhibition that will feature numerous large-scale sculptures with the maximum size being 10’ x 20’ and the smaller being 4’ x 4’ approximately. There will be two or three large-scale 72” x 96” paintings. These paintings will contain numerous film photographs that I have printed on 6’ x 5’ silk and fused to the canvas using encaustic medium and painted with encaustic pigment. The paintings will be supported by sculptural bases I will carve, and will allow them to be free standing in space. An element of poetry will be incorporated in all of my work. Poetry will be directly inserted into the gallery space, and will be written by myself with the possibility of an oral recorded presentation over a speaker. There will also be cast resin sculptures, varying from 1’ x 6” to 4” x 4”, and sculptures made of photographs I create.

Portrait of Artist, Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

Portrait of Artist, Sideview, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito, Fall 2019.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (1968). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (2nd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

American Psychiatric Association. (1980). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Auenbrugger, L., & Neubruger, M. (1966). Inventum novum: A facsimile of the first edition with Covisart’s French translation (1808), Forbe’s English translation (1824), Ungar’s German translation (1843). London: Dawsons of Pall Mall.

Battesti, M. (2016). Nostalgia in the Army (17th-19th centuries). Frontiers of Neurology and Neuroscience, 38, 132-142.

Bovin, M. J., Marx, B. P., Weathers, F. W., Gallagher, M. W., Rodriguez, P., Schnurr, P. P., & Keane, T. M. (2016). Psychometric properties of the PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–Fifth Edition (PCL-5) in veterans. Psychological Assessment, 28(11), 1379-1391. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/pas0000254

C100. (2006). The art of rebellion 2: World of urban art activism. Mainaschaff, Germany: C100 Publikat.

Calvert, M. F. (2016, June). The battle within: Sexual assault in America’s military Part 2: The Survivors. Oral Presentation at Look3 Photography Festival, Charlottesville, VA.

Burchfield, C. (1947). Spring landscape with trees and pond [watercolor on paper]. DC Moore Gallery, New York.

Dayman, L., & Sandrey, D. (2018, February 9). 10 Japanese women artists you really should know. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from https://japanobjects.com/features/women-artists

Deleuze, G. (2014). Difference and repetition. New York, NY: Columbia University Press. Felton., D. (2014). The motif of the “mutilated hero” in Herodotus. Phoenix, 68(½), 47-61. doi: 10.7834/phoenix.68.1-2.0047

Goldsworthy-hanner, N. T. (2016, May 16). Personal interview (Unpublished). Goldsworthy-hanner, N. T. (2006). Arbitrary Memories [film photographs on canvas with acrylic and encaustic].

Hempel, A. G., Felthous, A. R., & Meloy, J. R. (2003). Psychotic dream-related agression: A critical review and proposal. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 8, 599-620. Hundertmark, C. (2006). The art of rebellion 2: World of urban art activism. Großostheim, Germany: Publikat.

John William Keedy’s “It’s Hardly Noticeable” series reveals our anxieties.(2013, July), Huff Post. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ 2013/07/03/john-william-keedy-its-hardly-noticeable-photosn3540286.html

Kawauchi, R. (2016). The river embraced me. Tokyo: Torch Press. Kawauchi, R. (2016, January 1). The river embraced me. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from http://rinkokawauchi.com/en/publications/484/

Keedy, J. W. (n.d.) John William Keedy | It’s Hardly Noticeable. Retrieved February 16, 2019, from http://www.johnwilliamkeedy.com/itshardlynoticeable/#prettyPhoto

Mann, S., & Wood, J. (2005). Sally Mann: Photographs and poetry (Limited). South Dennis, MA: 21st Edition–Steven Albahari.

Mott, F. W. (1919). War neuroses and shell shock. New York: Oxford University Press. http// dx.doi.org/10.1037/14432-000

Norris Webb, R. (2012). My Dakota. Santa Fe, NM: Radius Books. Oxford University Press (1982). The compact edition of the Oxford English dictionary (22nd ed.). Oxford, UK: Author.

Schouten, K. A., de Niet, G. J., Knipscheer, J. W., Kleber, R. J., & Hutschemaekers, G. J. M. (2015). The effectiveness of art therapy in the treatment of traumatized adults. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse16(2), 220-228. https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838014555032

Thompson, N. (2015). Seeing power. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House. Webb, A., & Norris Webb, R. (2014). Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb on street photography and the poetic image. New York: Aperture.

Weekly, N. (1993). Charles E. Burchfield: The sacred woods. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.

Originally posted Jan 9, 2021.

Untitled, Self-Portrait I, Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito|NORNSLIFE. Denton, TX, 2021

Michael Foucault argues that in modern European societies (eighteenth-late twentieth century), that sexuality is not characterized by repression, but in actuality is a “veritable discursive explosion”(Foucault, 1990, p.17). Foucault touches on this in his work The History of Sexuality, and examines this discourse further through the question; “A censorship of sex? There was installed rather an apparatus for producing an ever greater quantity of discourse about sex”(Foucault, 1990, p.23). I began to wonder, how then as visual artists can we embody the explanation of the development or the effects of this “explosion” of the discourses of sex when, in fact, historical constructs of gender and sex are archaically outdated for the period we current live in? History demonstrates sexual repression of varying levels throughout the centuries, yet it has always been the sacred duty of the working visual artist to cross these barriers, represent truth through our own eyes, and break down negative societal stigmas surrounding this discourse. Each decade, each era, we are presented with a different perception of appropriate forms of sexuality designated by that time periods perception of appropriate sexuality dictated by usually conservative society norms. These norms lead to furthering “Otherization”, hate crimes, and turn about deeper seeded issues. Why is it that certain individuals throughout history have been able to enforce these negative oppressions and how much harder to we, as working visual artists, need to push freedom and acceptance before history stops repeating itself?

The woman’s objectification was not only in the household, but in the bra’s she was forced to wear. 

Michael Foucault believes that sexuality was not characterized by repression but by an explosion, which took place after more people began to rebel against societal conformities and beliefs. For generations the repression of sexuality was actually due to the political and economic era that we were living in. Over each decade within the twentieth century the repressions of sexuality leads to explosions of the people and artists rebuking against these negative societal stigmas. In 1968, women burned their bras to fight back against the perception that women were weak, bound by their gender, and only good for two things; being wives and bearing children. This paved the way for sexual freedom, and free love of the 1970s, and the 1970s made way for progress by opening the path for the swinging gay rights movements in the 1980s. During this time period we have artists such as Vito Acconcis', Seed Bed, Yao Yao Kusamas’, Sex Obsession Food Obsession Macaroni Infinity Nets & Kusama, and Carolee Schneemanns’, Interior Scroll. These three artists created performances that were meant to shock, confront, and get the populace to reconsider their own definitions of sexuality and gender constructs. Fighting against repression and historically archaic censorships of sex and sexuality. Traditionally, the woman’s role was seen to be in the household, to her husband, and children. It was the man’s job to say when he wanted sex, sex was taboo, not talked about, self-pleasure was just as repressed, and not seen as proper subjects to discuss comfortably. “The marriage relation was the most intense focus of constraints; it was spoken of more than anything else; more than any other relation, it was required to give a detailed accounting of itself” (Foucault, 1990, p.37). The woman’s objectification was not only in the household, but in the bra’s she was forced to wear. The pointy cup that made her breasts more attractive to her husband. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when the women’s movements for rights began to take off “and explosion” where women wanted to say that they were sexual beings equal to men, that women’s bodies were their own, and this led to the Bra Burning. Women finally began to not wear bra’s, be open that their sexual beliefs, and needs.

For centuries, there has been historical documentation of same sex relations between men/men, women/women, transgender, gender fluent, and heterosexual acts that included men and women. The Greek’s prized the Innersex individuals above all else in society because they had the ability to experience pleasure in all ways, as their bodies constitution had multiple sexual organs. Up until the nineteenth century, however, this was seen by un-educated or conservative sects of society as something not “normal” (i.e., negative, and not conforming). It wasn’t until the beginning of twentieth century that homosexuality began to be seen as taboo, out of the ordinary, unnatural, and gays began to be repressed even more into the closet. “Sex was not something one simply judged; it was a thing one administered. It was in the nature of a public potential; it called for management procedures; it had to be taken charge of by analytical discourses” (Foucault, 1990, p.24). The sexual repression extended to speech, not being allowed to speak of sex openly, to speak of being gay, and or having sex outside of marriage. Luckily this ended in the 1960s, to some extent, and by the time the 1970s rolled around another “explosion” occurred. The sexual freedom and Free Love of the 70s, swinging, and orgies roared.

A disease, a form of what people believed to be, The Gay Plague or Cancer, was starting to be more opening spoken of by the 1980s, and again the negative cycle of historical repression due to a lack of accessible knowledge that wasn’t freely spoken about. The coupling of non-heterosexual, gay people was starting to become more open, but by 1984 the public found out that HIV/AIDS stemmed not only from the gay community but the heterosexual one as well. “People often say that modern society has attempted to reduce sexuality to a couple-the heterosexual and, in-sofar as possible, legitimate couple” (Foucault, 1990, p.45). As more and more gay couples, gay artists began to come out, demonstrating to society that same sex people could have healthy loving relationships just like hetero couples, society unfortunately backlashed, and forced the oppression and closing of the LGBTQ+ individuals doors again. As an explosion of gay couples coming out to the world, saying they were as legitimate as the heterosexual couples in society, and society as a result deemed anyone to be seen as different, Other, was unorthodox, and not legitimate. It seemed a fight artists would have to continually fight against, to keep raging against this disgusting cyclical that seemed doomed to repeat itself after gaining historical context.

Over the past few centuries’ sexualities have gone through numerous changes as to what is and what is not considered acceptable by society, usually this acceptance has been due to the targeting of certain religions deeming individuals less than because of the way they were born, and as a result illegitimate. Going from the courageous act of rebellion, coming out, to being torn apart by society for being seen as different due to one’s choice of sexual coupling/s. This morphs into only seeing heterosexual couplings as the ones that society deems truly acceptable relationships and women being “allowed” (I hate stating this as it makes women seem weaker or less than, when in fact history, and many religions have deliberately targeted women to make them believe they were not equal to men as women’s power has been historically feared) to be sexual beings. Women then being repressed sexually at a man’s whims and the sexual freedom of free love being ripped from women seen to be a “whore” if contradicted. With each repression and explosion of sexual freedom/exploration occurring, this leads to great advancement within multiple mediums of visual art, and allows for greater historical perception of the sociology of sexuality to continually evolve. “Underly both the general theme that power represses sex and the idea that the law constitutes desire, one encounters the same putative mechanics of power. It is defined in a strangely restrictive way, in that to begin with, this powers is poor in resources, sparing of its methods, monotonous in doomed always to repeat itself” (Foucault, 1990, p.85).

It is feminist artists like Barbara DeGenevieve and Barbara Kruger who are dedicated to changing the oppressive ways our society depicts women and other minority groups that enable us to see the injustices of gender norms.

It goes without saying that visual art, performance, and visual artists are essential to the continuance of human betterment when forced to conform to negative societal norms and stigma. Without visual artists and scholars working on the front lines, a devaluation of society would occur, human beings would cease to continue to evolve, and work towards self-betterment in order to facilitate communal growth. It is feminist artists like Barbara DeGenevieve and Barbara Kruger who are dedicated to changing the oppressive ways our society depicts women and other minority groups that enable us to see the injustices of gender norms. It is through their work, as well as the Guerrilla Girl’s that I recognize, the great importance of creating as a way to aid in facilitating betterment for individuals whom society has historically Otherized. As a working bisexual female visual artist with mental health disabilities, I find it essential to seek to help others via my own creative processes to give joy, confrontation, honest struggle, and open emotion to the viewer/s. 

Citations:

Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality: An introduction, volume I. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 95.

Jones, A. (1998). Body art/performing the subject. U of Minnesota Press.

Originally posted Dec 5, 2020.

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In “The Traffic in Women,” Gayle Rubin states,

“Freud’s theory of femininity has been subjected to feminist critique since it was first published. To the extent that it is a rationalization of female subordination, this critique has been justified. To the extent that it is a description of a process which subordinates women, these critiques are a mistake” (197). 

After reading Nancy Chodorows’ “Gender, Relation, and Difference in Psychoanalytic Perspective,” in The Future of Difference, ed. Hester Eisentstaein and Alice Jardine, (1980), 3-20, I was able to gather some thoughts of my own. 

The difference between men/women is systemically embedded from two years of age when the child who identifies as cis/gender male begins to realize that he is different from the historical primary caregiver, his mother. Nancy Chodorow denotes that the difference between the external penis and internal vagina is how the cis/gender boy or girl, when little in traditional families learn to differentiate their differences as individual selves, by comparing themselves to their primary caregiver, which historically has been the mother. A mother see’s her son as different from herself after he leaves the womb because his genitalia are different from her own, and she see’s her daughter as a person whom she shares commonality with. 

The differentiating of sex occurs when babies develop where they belong socially, and who they really are through comparing themselves in their relationships with others. “Along with the earliest development of its sense of separateness, the infant constructs an internal set of unconscious, affectively loaded representations of others in relations to its self, and an internal sense of self in relationship emerges”(Chodorow, p.9). The children are generally raised by the mother, the father has been historically seen as the breadwinner, and the male at a young age begins to identify himself more as an individual self due to his feelings of psychological separateness due to his realization of gender difference from his mother. The father, historically has further enforced the feeling of psychological difference, as well as physical, more, and how he treated his compared to his daughter. This is where historically we had the development of male and female spaces, activities, and in particular art. A career historically seen as socially acceptable was for a women to be a painter, fibers artist, and perform these duties while still taking care of the children and running the household. 

A women feeling inadequate is psychologically linked to her feelings of being linked matrilineally to her mother via their similarities, and her sexual difference when she figures out that she does not have a penis. Both girls and boys separate themselves psychologically from their mothers, and the mother treats her son after he is born different due to the mothers historically systemically ingrained psychological belief that her son is different due to his genitalia being different from her own. “The males self, as a result, becomes more based on a more fixed “me” – “not-me” distinction.” (Chodorow, p.13). However, with relational difference between a child and mother there comes unique experiences, and with these experiences is what determines how the child will turn out. For example, a girl could be raised participating in sports that would normally be considered fit for males, due to the requirement of more physical strength necessary. Vice versa, a boy could grow up taking ballet classes, reading, writing poetry, painting, playing the piano, which historically were seen as feminine activities. Yet, from country to country certain things are still taught to boys and girls to be more appropriate due to their specific genders, which on the whole are extremely outdated due to present day gender and sexual fluidity made beautifully clear via the LGBTQIA+ community. There hence, a child even in the twenty-first century still remains for a time, until they break free, and embrace their own unique individuality a product of his/her/they raising. If a little girl, is raised by her father, and mother equally, by same sex parents, and historically seen unconventional family then she will not see herself as subordinate to men. She will not feel subordinate to men because she will not be taught/told that certain activities are only for boys, and she will associate herself more evenly with her father due to the shared time with each and all parental figures. This would be the only way to truly eliminate the psychological feelings and continuation of systemic gender sexism of the subordination of the woman to the man; by raising the children gender neutral and equal. If we were raised not to categorize ourselves as men/women, but purely human beings, there would be no gender subordination between the two sexes, which leads the way to other-ization, discrimination, and hate crimes towards anyone who does not fall into the historic gender categories female/male. We would be human beings, there would be no gender subordination between the sexes because we would see ourselves equally in every aspect, free to create how we choose, and surpass the traditional physical limitations that were systemically put on women during life and the creation processes. 

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In stating this, I feel empowered that I am a female elite artist athlete, whom has dedicated her life to strength training, endurance training, and this has enabled me the freedom to surpass historic gender limitations put on cis gender women like myself who fall into the other category. Welding, performing advanced forge process with bronze, chainsawing large scale wood sculptures, painting, ceramics, photography, and painting have all been tools I have used throughout my lifetime. I was raised by a feminist Doctor (PhD) Mom, who was an artist, raised by an artist feminist Mom (my maternal Grandmother), and it is through these strong women that from the age of three I began my training in the arts. Some people say you aren’t born an artist, but rather learn to be one, and I disagree. There are some of us who were born artists, raised to be so, and it is the only way we make sense of this world. This is me. I am a former NCAA, national champion, Olympic level, and current extreme endurance sports athlete artist. The scale of my art fuels my process, it informs it, and allows me to communicate with the world. If I hadn’t been raised basically by a single Mom, who taught me I had the capability to be as physically strong as a man, that I was equal in every aspect to a man, and in some ways above then I would not have become the fiercely driven women that I am today. A women who survived child abuse, domestic abuse, severe trauma, loss, sexual assault, and rape while never giving up to achieve her goals as an athlete artist scholar. I owe my everything to my Mother and Grandmother. It was is from them I learned to love everyone for whom they are, the good, the bad, and fight for women’s equality. To fight for gender equality. To fight for rape and sexual assault survivors who also struggle with PTSD like myself. I fight for everyone with every brush stroke, shutter click, throw, weld, and it is in this fight that the pen also becomes essential. What are we without the written word? What are without performance? What truly makes us human and defines our humanity? For myself, it is all of the above.

Best,

NORNSLIFE | Daniella A. Colombo-Dougovito

Citations:

Nancy Chodorows’ “Gender, Relation, and Difference in Psychoanalytic Perspective,” in The Future of Difference, ed. Hester Eisentstaein and Alice Jardine, (1980), 3-20

Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” in Toward an Anthropology of Women, ed. Rayna Rapp(1975), 157-210

Originally posted Nov. 24, 2020.

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The utility of identity politics has historically been used as a way to segregate people from one another. This segregation historically has occurred as a way for white people in power to outline whom they deemed better through ableism, misogynistic beliefs, patriarchic beliefs, and these are what set up the outline for classes, races, and sexes thereby leaving the way of the horrific consequences of otherization. These identity politics clearly state that whites should be seen as more powerful than blacks, men should be seen as more powerful than women, and that heterosexuals should be seen as more powerful than members of the LGBTQIA+ community. “It has spoken-it continues speaking-to each person who read it whether that reader identifies as “of color” or “white,” as “female” or “male” or “transgendered,” as “lesbian” or “straight” or “bisexual” or “queer.”” (Anzaldúa, Pp.15) Within each of these categories lie more subdivisions of categories, which I hesitate to mention just because the mere reference of those perpetuates the category of Other and Otherization, and this facilitates certain white individuals in society in the categorically wrong belief that they are better than anyone who falls into the category of Other allow racism and hate crimes to perpetuate. 

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A human being born into today’s society is put into class, race, and gender categories before they even emerge from their mother’s womb. Being placed into certain racial, gender, and or class categories before/upon birth allows for the perpetuation of negative perceptions and, usually, these prejudices continue on for future generations. Inherently this is why gender parties should not be thrown for babies before they are born because you won’t actually know a child’s gender until they are old enough to determine for themselves. Just because your child has a penis or vagina in the womb does not mean they will be cisgender male or female. By parents choosing to categorize their child as belonging to a specific gender, sex, etc. inherently makes them fall into Other, and opens them up to oppression from those that follow negative archaic gender norms. With this, upon birth, a child is either ahead in society or behind depending on where they fall on these negative societal constructs. “Despite my African ancestry, despite my woman lover, I was passing as “white”, passing as “straight” desperate to fit. But not succeeding.” (Anzaldúa, pp7) Once you associate one characteristic as a part of whom you are, you are then placed into another category based on presumptions or perceived bodily characteristics. Most often people don’t have a choice of what group they are put into; yet, thankfully, due in some part to the heinous presidency of Trump, white people have started joining the existing protests lead by Black and brown people against the hate crimes that are a result of historically ignored categorizations that lead white, straight, and well off people to believe they are better than anyone that fits into the category of Other.

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It is from the many categories of race, gender, sexual identity, disability, religion, that the formation of our multiple identities begin to grow, and give us our unique sense of individual and collective identities. Once, we as our own human beings freed from the judgment of others, we realize who we are and where we associate our individual sense of selves in accordance to these set categorizations; we are then able to fight for the rights of anyone seen as Other or “less than,” and pave the way for essential betterment of historical evolution. We can begin to side on arguments of the differences that lie between us. As Anzalúda points out, “I am in Costá Ríca. I walk the streets my brown skin and dark hair blend in with the multiple shades of brown around me. I love this first time experience of blending in! I walk into a coffee shop for some café con leche, and my fantasy of belonging is shattered when the woman preparing the coffee asks me where I’m from. I tell her that I was born in New York City by a Cuban mother and an Arab father. She replies, “Que eres una gringa” (p.107).” Once the realization of which class and identify groups we belong to as individuals are essentially forced upon us we then can fight to be where we truly belong, we can choose to group with people from all walks of life, from vastly different backgrounds, and cultures. Essentially, this categorization can serve to empower us by breaking free from the stereotypes and stigma and allow those of each group to define themselves and create community. “Yet implicit in certain strands of feminist and racial liberation movements, for example, is the view that social power of domination; it can instead be the source of sisal empowerment and reconstruction.” (Crenshaw, p.357) It is from all this that people begin to realize that we have Intersectional Identities (Crenshaw, p.385), and it is from this realization that we can also find how each of us—though we may look different, speak different languages, have different religious and cultural practices, have disabilities—if open to a growth mindset, are able to stand united in our humanity, and respect for one another. This respect for community and each others’ identity can burnish amazing things, like taking down a white supremacist, misogynistic, rapist 45th president and get enough votes for the first Black woman to be elected to the Vice Presidency of the US, along side an amazing man that truly sees women as equal to men. We are all human beings and moving forward with love and acceptance while eradicating sexism, racism, and ableism is the way forward. This love can also embolden people to truly love, accept, and speak their truths. 

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In stating this I am beyond stoked that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be entering the office this coming January 2021. Hopefully, the COVID-19 pandemic will finally be gone after regulations are put in place, that student loan debt may be forgiven, adjustments to middle class earning will occur, more rights for people that are Otherized will be protected, drastic steps to reduce global warming will be put in place, and that our country will start earning its place back at the world’s table. 

Kind Regards,

NORNSLIFE

Citations:

Gloria E. Anzaldúa and Analouise Keating, eds., This Bridge We call Home: Radical Versions for Transformation. (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp6-20, 106-10, 126-35, 158-65.

Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, “Mapping Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color,” in Critical Race Theory: the Key Writings that Formed the Movement

t ed. Crenshaw, Neil Gotanda, Gary Peller, and Kendall Thomas. (1995), 3357-383.

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