When I was a young girl growing up, I had no ceilings. Being raised by a single mother meant women could do it all, and I did. I started making art when I was only five years old, I had straight A’s, I was always the only girl on the soccer team. I could always do what the boys did.
As I got older people started acting like I needed to do less, be less, and start setting more “realistic expectations” for myself. This generated a lot of questions which I began to answer with my photographic work. Making images about the femme experience and throwing away the generalized structure of what women should act like and look like. I started noticing as a teenager the reality of being a woman in this world was going to be a lot to handle. I started seeing my mother be abused by her then boyfriend, and crisis after crisis I would always ask her why she would never leave. She never had an answer. Though when she finally did leave it was a huge sigh of relief for my entire family.
My first long term body of work dealt with the comparison of women to nature, and how both women and nature are necessary to further our existence, yet, both are extremely overlooked, undervalued and at times abused within our society. I was photographing other women during this project, but my personal experiences with abuse were at the front of my mind.
March of 2020 was the height of many people’s difficult times. Probably some of the hardest times of most people's lives. For me, March 2020 brought me freedom and fear wrapped into one. You always hear the hard hitting phrase “Well, if she was being abused she should have just left earlier!”. I was even guilty of that phrase prior to living through it.
It took me six years to recognize and process that I was simply trying to survive through my own relationship. I felt like I could not share that I was experiencing mental and physical abuse because I did not want to be judged for not ending it. I stayed overworking and distracting myself from the things going on behind closed doors. This was the only way I had learned how to cope with the psychological and physical trauma I was experiencing at home. I was walking on eggshells at all times, doing anything I could not to trigger an outburst.
When I left the situation in March 2020 I felt like I did not know who I was. I was a blank slate, and I had to re-discover the simplest things about myself. I was eighteen when I became attached to this man, and at twenty four, those six years felt like a black hole. My goals were diminshed and I felt like I was not capable of achieving both personal and career goals.
Later that year I took a solo trip to a few National Parks and hiking destinations just to escape. This is how my most current body of work was born. I spent a few days in White Sands National Park and photographed myself for the first time outside of my home. These self portraits were a visual representation of how I felt, both literally and metaphorically. Alone in a vast, unfamiliar space. Despite the vastness, I felt like I was safe. I began to trust my own navigation and realized I needed to be better about trusting myself in all aspects of life furthermore. At the office, the park ranger told me “ you need to remember which direction you came from, because the wind is going to blow away your footsteps and you may get disoriented”. I wanted to laugh at what a metaphor that actually was to me, after the things I went through, walking through miles and miles of sand with no trace felt somewhat easy. This project is about the trust I developed in myself and how this vast earth we live on became my healing in these isolated places.
I was not aware this would even turn into a project at the time, and a year later here I am depending on it to tell my story.
I plan on utilizing this body of work to speak on domestic violence. This is an unfortunate shared experience so many women have, with scant discussion surrounding the subject. Titled “She Should Have Just Left” , my goal for this work is to be a celebration of life after women do finally leave. This is a physical awakening of the love for my body and soul that I felt like I was never allowed to have prior.