In meticulously beaded sculptures I pull from my autobiography to illustrate stories of trauma, sexuality, intimacy, and growth. I use couture millinery and embellishment techniques to communicate through craftsmanship. Detailed beading and cyclical patterning emphasize the consistent labor in the repetitive motion of hand-sewing which mirrors the emotional and psychic labor expended in order to manage the suffering a body can accumulate over time. Whether illustrating symbols of childhood abuse, its resultant patterns of thought and behavior, or the process of healing, my sculptures translate the life experience of a survivor of complex trauma through the lens of glittering beadwork, rendering a harrowing reality easier to digest.
Using embellishment to tell stories of childhood sexual abuse is a deliberate choice made to work in a few ways. First, as a process, the act of hand-sewing reflects the constant emotional labor that it takes to live with, grow through, and to share a personal history of trauma. Instead of stitching with embroidery floss which can be blended more easily to appear seamless, beads remain visible as individual units, each a marker of a single pass of the needle, an expression of labor in time permanently recorded. I use that impression of labor as a backdrop for another primary function of the beadwork and perhaps its most immediate – the apparent beauty that casts a veneer over the underlying darker narrative. Sugarcoating. In my personal life I have found that in order to get anyone to listen to my story at all I’ve had to lighten the details significantly, use comforting language, even supplement with humor. To recount the weighty suffering that accompanies sexual trauma with a sense of levity is both an internal coping mechanism and a conditioned response from growing up in an environment that constantly warned me that my feelings would make others uncomfortable, so in order to spare anyone else from hurting I should protect them from what hurts me. It’s the equivalent of telling young girls to keep smiling, repress any difficult emotions, remain peaceful and accommodating. Using these soft sparkling objects to tell my story is not an endorsement of this message, it’s simply a reflection of my learned communication style as a survivor of the kind of insidious emotional abuse not just inflicted by the patriarch of my individual household, but by the misogynistic cultural makeup of the entire community in which I was raised.
While my choice of medium may act as a critical analysis of the way I was raised to temper my tone when expressing pain, I am also recounting deeply traumatic stories to the same cultural collective that due to repression, denial, censorship and deliberate silencing, has barely built a tolerance to seeing and hearing the reality that is the prevalence of childhood sexual abuse. I believe that through symbolism, softness, and aesthetics, I can bring this content to a public platform in a way that might offer an audience the space and time to digest the underlying narrative rather than immediately reject upon recognition. Beauty and light can often serve as our entry point into deeper considerations.