My BFA show is finally done! I can hardly believe it. After two years of research, paper writing and painting, painting and painting, the show is now up in the Harris Fine Arts Center at BYU in the Gallery 303 Foyer.
I want to tell you a little about the details of the project. It was a part of a fundraiser event that has been a collaboration in association with the Laycock Center. These art pieces served as the visual aspect in a fundraiser for the Center for Women and Children in Crisis that I hosted with my co collaborator Zane Harker. This event has been in the works for quite some time and Zane and I are so overjoyed that was able to become a reality. We appreciate the Laycock Center for enabling this event to happen and we’ve been so grateful to work with the Center for Women and Children and Crisis and the Women’s Studies Program at BYU and the many other people who have helped. Also I would like to thank my mentors who have helped me in developing this project. Matt Ancell has been a very gracious and kind professor who has offered his time and resources as I embarked on creating an ambitious art series as a novice in the realm of the more fine arts/gallery work and philosophy and academia. Jason Lanegan has also been such a helpful guide in preparing my work for the exhibition and developing my concept. And of course, my illustration professors have helped me so much. Christopher Thornock and David Dibble have helped me to push my art work and they have helped to brainstorm ideas to make this project more innovative.
This project has gone through quite the evolution. I dabbled with the idea of creating a ballet, which the dance department informed me was far too ambitious and we started with many different ideas, but I’m so happy that we’ve been able to channel this project into something that is hopefully more beneficial for us as the Provo community.
Two years ago I went through my first experience of having an existential or quarter life crisis, which left me feeling quite distraught. I try not to judge my younger selves so I look back and try to appreciate my naivete and how it helped me to progress. And I do appreciate that that experience led me to several different important steps in my personal journey, but two of the significant places that I came to was women’s issues and Job. I’ve determined that the Book of Job in the Old Testament is not the type of story that you choose, but it is a story that chooses you and as it happens, the story of Job seemed to come to me through a variety of avenues, including Terrance Malik’s film The Tree of Life, multiple professors and the story just seemed to grab me by the shoulders and insist that I become a part of it.
The questions that Job asks become so poignant during a time of struggle and I was taken with his honest investigation of life’s troubles and how he tried to grasp for truth in the midst of confusion, disappointment and abandonment. ‘What is man that thou shouldest magnify him? But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?’
He asks the questions that we are not always brave enough to ask and risks the chastisement of his dearest friends who can’t offer any satisfactory answers and wonder, ‘How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?’.
It is difficult to know how to help someone when they are distressed and when facing a problem that is greater than we can understand as shortsighted humans. It is common to offer simplistic answers that ‘everything will be ok’, ‘if we do what is right then all will be well’ and when we continue to watch our friends continue to struggle we may suggest that it’s time to move on or ask ‘How long wilt thou speak these things?’
As I started studying women’s issues and learning about the devastation of human trafficking, which is a problem globally and is probably a part of our community in some form and on local levels there is domestic violence, depression and crippling anxiety, disorders and self esteem issues and other tragedies that hinder women from experiencing opportunities, success or even just joy.
These two themes began to merge and the story of Job became less about Job, and it became more about the questions themselves and how they cross through all of our lives and specifically the lives of women.
I thought about how these questions affect women, mostly because, I am one and I had a lot of questions about womanhood. I wondered about what does it mean to be a woman to me? What role do I play? What role do women in general play in our community? How can women and men build healthy relationships? How do we as women talk about emotional issues without being perceived as whiney? Where does my value come from?
As I talked with women from the Center for Women and Children in Crisis I learned of stories of deep devastation, power struggles, abuse and difficult issues.
Then there came the questions, ‘Who deserves to be treated in such a way? Why would these things happen? Why would someone demean another human being, or a loved one so deeply?’ And the questions that became most important to me was, ‘What do we do to stop injustices and how do we make our community a place where domestic violence and verbal, physical and sexual abuse doesn’t occur?’
Job asks, ‘How hast thou helped him that is without power? How savest thou the arm that hath no strength?’
At the end of the Book of Job, God reaches out to Job and offers the Leviathan as a symbol for the great atrocities of the world. The treacherous and undefeatable sea monster is terrible and unconquerable, a match that only God can vanquish. The answers to Job’s questions aren’t necessarily given, but Job comes to understand that suffering is a part of this world.
So how do we face our own leviathan and how do we reconcile our sister’s sorrow? How do we ease the pain and the suffering in our community? How can we contribute to helping when these problems seem too overwhelming? How do we help when the advice or help we have to offer seems obsolete? What do we do when we struggle with these difficulties ourselves?
I in no way hope to replace God or offer that we can draw the leviathan with a hook and uproot any problems in our community completely. I know this exhibition probably won’t do much to change the world at large and I don’t know if it will do very much to make our community a better place, but I hope to say that I did what I could do to spark a conversation that continues to seek for answers to these questions. I hope that as you take a few moments to reflect on these issues that we will remember to try and influence those around us for good and contribute to needed solutions in our community.