Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Overcoming Domestic Abuse: Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Overcoming Domestic Abuse. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. 25" x 19", unframed. 31" x 25", framed. Embroidery and assorted needles. Hand stitched main words: Starting Over. Other hand stitched words: To break the cycle of abuse; Women's Shelter; I left for good; No more false promises; Abusers never change; To save my son; Order of Protection; I ran for my life. Click on image to enlarge.)

Before leaving for England, I finished this Decision Portrait Series piece but didn't have the opportunity to post it until now. It is on display at Gallery 80808/Vista Studio for Artista Vista, the annual spring gallery crawl. I'm expecting hundreds of people to come through my space this Thursday evening.'s the story behind this important work.

I lost track of the number of people who asked me, "Are you on Facebook?" With several blogs, a Flickr! account, CYBER FYBER, and a Stitchin' Fingers page, I couldn't see any reason to join an on-line social network! When would I have time? Why would I want to socialize via my computer screen? It all sounded silly, except that everyone who asked me about Facebook also said that it would be a great tool for finding potential Decision Portrait Series models. So, I joined. My page is completely about this series. I honestly didn't think it would work....but it is working! I'm in communication with people I met years ago....some of whom have important, life changing decisions to share through my series. This is one of those portraits!

I met this lovely young lady through arts channels in South Carolina. She's a talented painter, a spiritual person, the mother of a four year old, and someone who had been hiding a horrible secret until a year and a half ago. Recently, we became Facebook friends; she contacted me; this portrait is the result.

(Above: Detail of Overcoming Domestic Abuse. Click on image to enlarge.)

I wish I'd known the truth. Somehow, I feel a little guilty for not knowing. Honestly, I can't imagine an abusive relationship, but I also couldn't imagine how I might react to someone in such a circumstance...until now. Through our correspondence I've learned of the pain and loneliness of leaving an abusive spouse. I've learned that so-called friends avoid the situation altogether. I've had to type replies...offering heart-felt words and cyber hugs. I hope that others seeing this portrait reflect on the difficult decision she had to dangerous. I also hope that those viewing this portrait think about how they'd react to someone who'd recently made such a decision....with avoidance or with support.

(Above: Another detail of Overcoming Domestic Abuse. Click on image to enlarge.)

Support might just be passing on a the National Domestic Violence Hotline or to


ewa-christine said...

Very Nice.....................

Chris said...

It's very cool and kind of chilling that you left the needles in, or should I say incorporated needles in, the piece.

Wanda said...

Very nice. No, we can't imagine it. I am so happy that she is starting over. I deactivated my Facebook...I was facebooking way more necessary and it was becoming an addiction..see the first portrait of this series. I hope you know the we are coming to visit you...I think the weekend of the 15th. Just a quick trip but...better than nothing!

Kristine said...

Susan, your work is just stunning. The needles are such a beautiful and poignant statement. I have often wondered how so called friends or family could be so unsupportive of the decisions that will make ourselves (abused people) safe, allowing ourselves the freedome of a good life. In the end it all comes down to fear. Fear of what to or not to say, fear of ramifications, fear of being taken from their comfort zones, making them stretch and be courageous, fear of changing their perspectives on life and people.

My important life decision at 14 made me feel for years that I had been a bad girl, because it so displeased my family, but I always knew and especially now that I am a 40 yo adoptive mother, I know I did what was right and all of those people, family most especially, are living their lives exactly how they always have. In fear and loss. No hope, no true love, no pride in themselves or their decisions.

When we talk about secrets in the closets, the closet doors get flung open and the crap either gets dealt with through love and communication, therefore breaking the chain or cycle of dysfunction, or it gets shoveled back in with the trowel of fear and nothing changes, and people continue to get damaged...mentally, physically, sexually, emotionally. Thank you for being an instrument of change for such important issues.

The 14 year old girl in me thanks you, as does the 40 year old woman.


Kristine Brooks

Karen said...

Thank you for these powerful images and stories. I am requesting permission to use the image of "Overcoming Domestic Abuse" in a book that I am writing entitled Peace Fibres: Stitching a Soulful World. In it, I enlist fibre work as metaphor and manifestation of harmonious relationship to self, others, and the larger world. I would use this photograph as a statement of the powerful healing aspect of fibre work.

I am a psychologist and currently am on the board of our local Violence Prevention Center.

May I use this image? Please advise of any fees involved. I would, of course, cite the artist your website as source.

Peace Fibres will be self published through Integral Press. I anticipate printing in early 2011with an initial run of 1200.

Thanks for considering my request. I look forward to your response.

Karen Lohn

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; it's the only thing that ever has..." - Margaret Mead