Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pro Choice: Decision Portrait Series

(Above: Pro Choice, Decision Portrait Series. Stitched words: The choice was mine. Xylene photo transfer on tea-stained muslin. Hand beaded and stitched. 25" x 19", unframed. 31" x 25", framed. Click on image to enlarge.)

This portrait is very, very special. For me, it represents balance. The Decision Portraits Series is about DECISIONS....all sorts of them. Most of the decisions suggest a change of circumstances, a course of action taken when there is more than one option. Some decisions are profound; some are quite ordinary. Some are very personal; some are very public. Many are bittersweet...because there is more than one option!

From the beginning, I've been careful not to attach any value judgment because this is not about defining "right from wrong". What's "right" for one person isn't necessarily "right" for someone else. Take the issue of religion, for example. The series explores the decisions of faith....but isn't suggesting one set of beliefs is truer than another. I've stitched Christian, Rabbi, Priest, Atheist, Buddhist and From Preaching to Teaching. I've got a photo and a signed model's release for Muslim, and I'm still looking for a Hindi. Together, these portraits explore several options. Together, they establish a balance for the series. I want balance!

Having already stitched Someone Else's Miracle and Teenage Mother, I knew I wanted to stitch Pro Choice. I needed to stitch it....to establish the balance! There's more than one way to handle a difficult situation surrounding an unplanned pregnancy. So....this portrait is special...it brings a balance to the entire series.

Originally, I didn't think I would find a woman with the strength of character, the ability to articulate her choice, and the willingness to pose for this very personal, extremely controversial portrait. Yet, Shannon Elizabeth Staley came forward. She's a totally professional woman, open, honest, respectful of others, and an advocate for womens' rights.

Here in South Carolina there's been a bill pending (now postponed) that, if passed, would require a twenty-four hour waiting period after viewing an ultrasound before one could legally terminate a pregnacy. Shannon made herself available to speak on behalf of those opposed to this bill. A television station promised to present her advocacy as "balanced" and promised to inform her when the segment was to air. They did neither. (The biased interview and graphic imagery can be viewed here. Shannon actually provided appropriate, first trimester footage but this wasn't used.)

Well, I, too, promised Shannon to be respectful and balanced. I promised to stitch her portrait in such a way that it might reflect her inner beauty. Both Shannon and I are very pleased with the results. We discussed several phrases for stitches. Yet, I decided to use just these four words: The choice was mine. It is the simple truth. It is to the point. It doesn't suggest shame, blame, an excuse or anything negative....appropriately so...no judgment! It reflects Shannon's realistic view of her life, her strength, her intellect, and her rights over her own body. The portrait brings balance to the entire series. I personally thank Shannon, a new friend.

I've also recently finished Living with HIV. After I hear from the gentleman to posed, I'll post this portrait too. Soon I'll begin on Muslim and Patriot. I'm still looking for other willing to share an important decision! The wish list is here.


Wanda said...

Yes, I see the balance. And yes, it was needed to give the series the balance you are looking for. Wow..no I'm thinking of all sorts of other decisions that could be used to balance things out! I love the look of this portrait. It is sophisticated, simple, elegant. And Shannon is too.

Cindi said...

Love it Susan -- great job.