This page contains three different projects that form an artistic exploration of womanhood. The final piece on this page is a poem dealing with sexism, sexual assault, and suicide topics. If you feel unsafe reading this poem, please stop after the embroidered piece. If you have any thoughts or questions on this section of the portfolio, please feel free to reach out to email@example.com.
The Skeleton Woman
This was a collaborative photography project inspired by the story of the Skeleton Woman. We worked together to recreate the story through Elizabeth’s dress design, Cadie’s expressive photos, and Rachael’s physical embodiment of the character.
The Skeleton Woman is a story of a woman thrown out by her father for a forgotten crime. In her father’s eyes, this crime warranted her death by drowning–similar to the idea of an honor killing of which women are the primary targets. Yet, as the tale notes, such killings do not serve to avenge the insult: people do not remember the Skeleton Woman’s crime, they remember her murder.
The pain she feels at being outcast for something nobody quite remembers is a pain that many women share. We are often judged by stricter rules, meted harsher punishments, and then forgotten. This pain literally eats the Skeleton Woman alive, until she becomes nothing more than bones at the bottom of the sea. It is not until she is seen as a living thing worthy of respect and warmth by the fisherman that she returns to her humanity. We chose to portray the moment that she finally emerges from the sea, restored to humanity but dragging the weight of her suffering with her.
The paintings on the dress are of the watery depths the Skeleton Woman wallowed in for years before she was brought back to her humanity. The photographs are all positioned to portray the figure emerging from the cold water as the Skeleton Woman does in the tale, but unlike the tale, these photos show a gradual emersion rather than an abrupt one. Their colors and the many reflections of the figure captured in the pictures communicate the subdued, reflective mood of the story and her experiences.
Art requires immersion. In order to retell this story, we had to partly live its reality–for us, this entailed getting into the freezing-cold February water of Davidson’s Lake Campus, which was certainly a difficult and painful task. When the dress became waterlogged, it grew heavier in a literal representation of the weight the Skeleton Woman had to bear.
Art, similar to this story, is not limited to one audience and telling. Rather, it has room for interpretation. The details one fixates on vary, the moral or lack thereof changes in interpretation, and the specific telling of the story warps over time and between people. Yet, overall, the same basic story is passed down just possibly with a different nuanced message. The complexities of the story lie in its embodiment through its telling and retelling. No interpretation is identical, giving way to a story that lives its life off of a page, told not in solidified words, but rather in the meaning it gathers in its simultaneous personal and collective identity. We hope we have added some nuance to the story of the Skeleton Woman through our own artistic retelling.
The Power of Women: Embroidery on Cotton
When asked questions about this piece, I generally prefer not to give answers. I would like to leave this piece up to interpretation. I considered the themes of bodies, universal humanity, portrayals of joy and trauma, the ancient ‘science’ of magic, the ‘four elements’, love, and freedom in making this piece. To understand it, look at the piece bearing the title, The Power of Women, in mind. Think about the medium. Think about the elements included and how they work together. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to discuss it further.
Susan B. Anthony Poem
I would like to acknowledge that these topics do not only impact cisgender women: men, non-binary folks, and transgender people are affected by sexual assault as well. The poem that I wrote speaks primarily to my own experience as a woman. I chose this angle because I do not want to try and speak to experiences I have not had, but if you are a survivor from any different background, I see you, I hear you, and I believe you. Your story is valid too. If you need support, please see the resources below:
- The Davidson College Health Center is open during the school year and provides counseling services. Their number is 704-894-2300.
- Davidson College’s Rape Awareness Committee email address is email@example.com.
- The National Sexual Assault Hotline number is 1-800-656-4673.
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-8255.