Nasty Women Get Divine

Shelby HeadThere’s a body in the hallway of the Yale Divinity School. Maybe it’s a mummy wrapped in linen, or a cast with a form inside it. Whatever the case, it’s on an ironing board, and it’s hard to miss the spikes driven into the spot where its sternum would be. Look again, and you see that a cable is wrapped around the body. One end goes to an outlet in the floor. The other to the iron itself. It is, in a sense, the embodiment of domestic violence — and standing next to it, it feels like a rebuke. Could you have done something to stop it?

Shelby Head’s Power Figure one piece from among works by 160 artists from New York, Boston, and Maine, but mostly hailing from the New Haven area, who are part of Nasty Women Connecticut’s latest exhibit, “Complicit: Erasure of the Body,” running now through March 31 at the Yale Divinity School on Prospect Street. All the pieces are responding to the exhibit’s theme of complicity — that is, getting people to think about how, whether through action or inaction, they may be perpetuating a culture that allows sexual violence to continue.

Brian Slattery PhotosThe riotous exhibit, which spills through the halls of the Divinity School, is intended as a form of “disruption,” McClure said, not only in in its theme, but also in bringing the New Haven community to Yale, and getting Yale more out in the community.

The exhibit ended up at Yale Divinity School when Laura Worden, a graduate student there, reached out to Nasty Women CT during the Kavanaugh hearings and the protests in reaction. She thought about Kavanaugh’s connections to Yale, and Yale’s response.

“Curating art exhibitions is the way I process things,” Worden said. She wrote McClure an email explaining that she’d like to involved. And, she said, “we have walls” to hang art on.

The idea McClure and Worden hatched was to dig a little deeper. It was one thing to protest Kavanaugh. It was another to examine the culture that produced him, not only at Yale, but in broader society. McClure found that there was a “gray area” between actively supporting that culture and actively working against it.

“The gray area is this act of complicity,” Worden said. “We have allowed for things to happen by turning our faces away.” And that complicity, she said, “erases people” from the scene. “As we raise up some voices, we have to make sure we’re not silencing others.”

McClure agreed. They made the exhibit an open call to attract both established and emerging artists, “all unified through a single message, and through the arts,” McClure said. They also created a coalition of organizations to support the exhibit, from the New Haven Pride Center and Black Lives Matter to Artspace and the Center for British Art to Miya’s, Rawa and Claire’s. The coalition-building was intended to bridge divides across race, gender, culture — and town and gown. “It starts the dialogue,” McClure said.

“As a student here I have been welcomed by the community,” Worden said. “It’s important to welcome the community to the Divinity School.” Having the exhibit at the Divinity School felt particularly important, she continued, because “there are people going into ministry, people who are going to be faith leaders. This is a time for students to reflect on how faith leaders and scholars can make a change.”

Patti MacieszThere is much to think about. Patti Maciesz’s invites passersby to calculate the dollar worth of the time they spend taking care of others — in particular, time spent in the home doing the work to care for a family. Most pointed (and fun) is an invoice made out to the patriarchy for running a household. After calculating that cooking, cleaning, and otherwise running a household and caring for those in it takes up about 205 hours a week, the invoice bills the patriarchy for that work at $20 per hour — or $4,100 a week, for a yearly salary of $213,000 a year. Adding a “woman tax” of $240 and adjusting for the $44,822 wage gap between men and women, the full invoice comes to $258,262 a year. Visitors are encouraged to fill out invoices of their own.

Molly GambardellaBy constructing a spiked breastplate from colored pencils, in one arresting object Molly Gambardella makes a deep, complex statement on the way an artist might use art for protection. How acute are the threats from the outside that such a breastplate must be constructed? And what is being locked inside when the artist puts it on?

Brooke SheldonSeveral of the pieces in the exhibit employ religious motifs to examine those institutions and their possible roles in fomenting oppression against women. Brooke Sheldon’s Hi, My Name Is Mary takes specific aim at Christianity and the way that Mary is both held up and silenced. It’s a forceful comment on how, in the Catholic Church organization in particular, women are both revered and reviled, singled out for veneration while completely excluded from having any real power or voice at all.

Bek AndersenIn another part of the exhibit, yet in direct conversation with Sheldon’s piece, Bek Andersen’s Hot Mamma suggests what kinds of powerful new forms of religious thought and practice might emerge if the patriarchy is removed from religious institutions, and women given more power to speak and act.

Susan ClinardDown the hall, Susan Clinard’s Surviving Sexual Trauma: The Shedding and Shelving of Memory reasserts the basic humanity of the victims of sexual violence in a moving, profound way. As Clinard herself writes in an artist statement, “she’s looking back at you, yes you, the viewer. The viewer is not just you it is all of us. As we awaken from our toxic slumber of institutional masochistic and patriarchal behavior, as both women and boys step up to speak the truth about surviving their sexual trauma. She asks us to see her and acknowledge her story ... our story.

“This installation reveals an intimate corner of a room where a woman invites you to see her story of trauma and healing, Clinard continues. “How she has compartmentalized, shelved, stored away memories of her past. How she has shed her skin and feelings of entrapment, sorrow, pain and loss. Where she has unraveled the layers of shame and isolation.

“Although this sculpture may be difficult to look at I offer it as a cathartic awakening, a visual story of the process of healing. It is for all of you who have suffered sexual trauma. I carry your strength with me every day.”

In putting together this sprawling exhibit, McClure and Worden were quick to acknowledge its limitations. “We’re not solving all the problems” with an art exhibit, McClure said. “But what are we going to do, sit back and complain?” Making the exhibit, and making art, can be a model for how to “collaborate and mobilize,” and bring more people into the fold.

To that end, Nasty Women will celebrate the exhibit with an official opening at Yale Divinity School from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 8, open to the public for free. This will be followed by an afterparty at Cafe Nine at 9 p.m., featuring stalwarts of the New Haven music scene Daniprobably, Lys Guillorn, and Mooncha, along with poet Sun Queen and emcee Sha McAllister. It’s a chance for the artists and the public to connect, mingle, share ideas, and even sing.

“People just want to have a voice,” McClure said.

“Complicit: Erasure of the Body” runs at Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect St., through March 31. For more information about the exhibit and related events, visit Nasty Women CT’s website.

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posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on March 5, 2019  5:01pm

What madness!  The Catholic Church expressly teaches that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the Mediatrix of All Grace.  That means that whatever good anyone receives is directly obtained by the quasi-infinite power of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Moreover, this says nothing of the many Church approved Marian apparitions where Our Lady has directly spoken to us.  Considering that tomorrow starts the holiest time in the Christian calendar, I can’t imagine a more offensive and at the sometime foolish article. The latter because this is just par for the course with ever increasing attacks on the dignity of women and the Church that always occur at this time of year by the press.  At least some of us can still see through you guys…

posted by: CityYankee on March 5, 2019  6:58pm

Thank you,  Mr. O’Rourke.

Anti-Catholicism is alive and well at Yale.  Is this what they teach future ministers at the Div School?

posted by: A_Republican on March 5, 2019  11:11pm

That’s a lot blasphemy for a divinity school. Makes you wonder the point.

posted by: Erased on March 6, 2019  9:43am

Great article and congratulations to Yale Divinity School! We cannot miss the momentum and allow the injustice against women continues. The picture of Mary with her mouth covered is moving and perfect for all of us erased by a male predominant society mainly now that we have a chauvinistic man in the Office. I am sure the Virgin Mary would support us all women that are victims of bully and all kinds of harassment and being forced to silence for fear of retaliation. Congratulations to the Nasty Women CT.
Thank you for creating a beautiful and non violent way for us to make our voices heard. Thank you to Yale Divinity School for allowing the show. Our faith leaders must be informed and support all women everywhere.

posted by: Lorirobin on March 6, 2019  9:48am

The Catholic Church may teach that Mary is to be worshipped and honored but generally speaking , it is a world- wide system of patriarchy. Women have been treated as children , free or undervalued workers , and sexual objects for thousands of years.

This exhibit sounds like it is doing what good art should do- open eyes and minds to other points of view.

posted by: Russia Exit Crimea on March 6, 2019  5:50pm

That picture of Mary offends me. Time for me read Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly, again.

posted by: Babz Rawls Ivy on March 7, 2019  12:28pm

High-Five to this exhibition! Complicit: The Erasure Of The Body…The 3rd Annual CT Nasty Women Feminist Art Exhibition.  Art ought to challenge us, pull us out of our comfort zones. Not only does this exhibition challenge us, it raises awareness to what is happening to women and girls. It’s easy to focus on the Catholic church, hard to focus on the countless numbers of abuse against children and nuns! Where’s the outrage for that? Eerily silent. And honestly, this isn’t solely about abuse at the hands of religious organizations. Abuse is found in all walks of life!

This annual exhibition travels to different venues each year. The Yale Divinity School is a profoundly perfect space. I love YDS bridging the space between art and intellect, It all belongs.

I have a piece hanging for viewing and I have poem in the written collection.  Come, see the exhibition, blow your minds and then see what you can do about eradicating violence against women and girls.

posted by: Erased on March 7, 2019  3:02pm

Dear Russia Exit,
If the image offended you, you probably didn’t understand the message.  Sorry.
You have a choice of not looking at it.

posted by: Russia Exit Crimea on March 8, 2019  12:31am

Erased, thanks for the clarification. I try to read and look at everything. I am on a journey searching for knowledge. I had to take a Real Estate course twice, so I am not an A student.

After reading some of the comments and article, a second time, it altered my opinion.
It also brought back some very difficult memories of when my Mom was abused, by her boyfriend, for four years. Ron DeMello always got a light sentence.

posted by: chasb on March 8, 2019  9:58am

Congratulations to Brooke Sheldon and the show as a whole. In this day and age, the fact that anyone could attempt to defend the Catholic Church is beyond comprehension. Give us more like this!

posted by: Erased on March 8, 2019  10:09am

Dear Russia Exit

Thank you so very much for sharing with us. This is a demonstration of a strong woman you are. I am sorry for all suffering your mother had to endure. Unfortunately, we all have sad stories about being erased suffering in silence. That is exactly what this movement is about, freedom for all women. I can feel that you are a very kind and determined woman! Be proud of yourself and if you have the opportunity go see the event. Have a wonderful day!

posted by: ebw1957 on March 10, 2019  9:31am

The libs in DC sign a meaningless document declaring outrage at any for of discrimination for any group on the planet save Christians….. the need to have a hate group is real and alive on the left.