Saturday, August 14, 2010

an attempt to understand the horror

I have so many words to say and yet no words that can fully express Melanie Weaver's powerful art installation.  Melanie was a victim of human trafficking when she was a child and her experience and artistic genius are revealed in her staggering piece.

I was and still am so completely overwhelmed.  At first, I was overwhelmed in an aesthetic way.   In the colors, artistry, sculptures, and textures. After walking away, I became emotionally overwhelmed and returned to work through all the meaning and depth there.

Upon entering, I was mesmerized by the brilliant, varying shades of reds sewn together in shapes and beautiful patterns to make up a large quilt that, draping from iron hooks and the ceiling, coated the space - the walls, the floor.  Each quilted piece was the fabric from women and children's clothing. Dyed doilies, crocheted delicacy against the harshness of the room.

Women and children's shoes, more shades of red, lined the room.  Each filled with more red fabric.  And in them, I saw their lives, torn and bleeding.

The boldness of the reds were accompanied by the starkness of skin colors of dismembered dolls in cold, black cages.  Hanging sculptures of naked limbs, bouquets of torsos, and lone heads.  Torn apart, no longer whole.  How harsh, the realization when I made the connection.  The inanimate objects- the smiling doll children.  Trafficked victims, completely and utterly objectified.

Each represented a trafficked victim who has been stolen, abused, stripped of their dignity, silenced by their oppressors, and isolated from all love and light and goodness in the world.  Each head, varying hair (in differing styles), skin, and eye color.  Yet all of them had a small smile playing on their lips in irony.  For they must smile.  They have no choice, it is what they exist for.

Many of the smiling lips had a dark twist of black yarn protruding from their mouths in a long strand down towards the floor.  Symbolic of a bitter truth that when you continually put evil and darkness into someone, it will begin to come out... expressing itself in pain and horror.

Each forehead is marked with a red, wax seal of the letter 'H'.  'H' for 'Holy', the artist Melanie Weaver, told me.  The purity, the beauty of that mark, in stark contrast to the false label seen by those who rent beloved creatures to achieve their own satisfaction.

Little plastic cherries and handmade ones out of yarn littered the floor.  Dismembered hands of children held one solitary cherry in their open palm, laying on the quilted floor.  Crass is the picture.  Crass is the phrase, "pop her cherry".  In my conversation with Melanie Weaver, she described to me how trafficked victims are becoming younger and younger as those who want to use them desire the least likelihood of receiving an STD (no concern given to what the as buyers already carry and will inevitably pass on to their victims).  To "pop a cherry" is ideal.  And younger and younger are these victims.

These pictures do not do justice to this incredibly impressive art installation.  It was abrasive, yet sadly dripping.  It was filled with eeriness and horror, yet beauty in the art, itself.  It was disturbing, as it should be.  Human trafficking is horror, is skewed, is torture, is stolen dignity and innocence.  It was gut wrenching, uncomfortable, overwhelmingly powerful, and undoubtedly rewarding.  I do not think I was able to take it all in during one evening.  I keep thinking about it and finding new things and my heart hurts a little more.

Jason, Kirsten, and I found the artist, Melanie Weaver, outside and away from all the noise and ongoing performers, taking it all in and breathing after working for days without sleep.  We had the opportunity to have a discussion with her.  I described some of my observations and the symbolism I had recognized.  She smiled and nodded emphatically and said, "It's working," with happiness and relief at all the labor and heart and creativity and pain she poured into this.  She affirmed some of my interpretations and enlightened me on many.  She told us how she has been collecting the dolls and purchasing "Hi-Ho Cherrio" replacement pieces for a very long time and that this installation has been years in the making.

Now, in it's wake, I am utterly humbled at its beauty and severity.

Tonight was a preview and only a portion of what will be created as a full show in January 2011.  Believe me, I will be getting as many people to see it as I have in my power to do.  I have to find a way for Bryan to get out here.  This is too important, too big.  Art forces people to see in a way that can't be explained.  It has a magic to instill emotions and fears, to provoke action, to break hearts, and to instigate a way for change to occur and beauty to come.

I will be thrilled to assist the talented and brilliant Miss Weaver in the January installation.  How I respect this woman.  For her vision, for her bravery, for her extraordinary talent.  She handed me her sketchbook, pages covered in quilt sketches and ideas, and had me write my contact information there.  She said it was "in exchange for the picture" (below).

 To view my complete photographic experience, please, click here.
 © Kimberly K Taylor, all rights reserved


seijitsu said...

Thanks for sharing the photos for those of us who can't see it in person

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim,
We're friends on FB, and I saw your status and came to read your blog post. This is an incredible exhibit and I really appreciated hearing your thoughts and soft heart. Where will this exhibit be occurring in January? I would love to come see it, and to bring friends. Also, if you'd like, follow this link to read a blog I wrote about a ministry that is combating human trafficking in India:

Ryan Lucchesi said...

Check it out, it's a great way to get involved!

The exhibit looks amazing. Where is it located?

Jen said...

Wow, that is powerful. I feel heavy after just reading it and seeing these few images. Thank you for sharing this for those who couldn't be there. And my hat's off to Melanie, whom I met only once, for her bravery.

Bryan Schnebelt said...

I HAVE to experience this in person. First of all, I love Melanie Weaver from taking a class from her. I think seeing this would elevate the already huge amount of respect I have for her. Such an important issue too!

Jason Pestell said...

I am looking forward to January when I can once again experience this installation (and in fullness), and I hope many others come to APU for this exhibit as well (Duke building). I know that it will stir me to action if I allow it, because it is raw, real, beautiful, frightening.