'The Wash' art exhibit featured at Union, explores trauma and healing
The exhibit also consists of Shaw's ongoing work, “The Panty Project”, which is designed to help women heal from various forms of trauma and sexual abuse.
"These bodies of work are representative of personal narratives and of individual women who have chosen to share their stories," Shaw said in a press release.
With this project, participants are encouraged to share their stories of their experiences of gendered transgressions. After selecting the undergarment that best represents their personal stories, Shaw embroiders words — ranging from derogatory terms for the vagina like "gash" to phrases like "man trap" — that encapsulates their thoughts and feelings onto the fabric.
“I hand embroider a chain stitch because we are all connected like a chain," Shaw said. "It's over their handwriting, over their mark-making — and what I have found is all of the participants have dealt with some kind of trauma, some is just the day-in, day-out needling, the cultural oppressions that we endure as women — and some participants have been through very horrific traumas regarding rape or multiple rapes or incest – horrific stories I have heard."
After the words and phrases are embroidered, Shaw photographs the garments before sequentially organizing the finished artwork on the wall in the gallery.
Shaw put an emphasis on her use of photography as an artist, explaining that a photograph presents and documents a story.
Shaw also said that marks — the word she uses to describe the phrases etched onto the pieces of clothing — make the artwork "tangible," and invites more engagement from people processing the art.
“We have within us an innate desire to connect with one another," Shaw said in the press release, "yet our language, essential to communication, often serves to polarize us both interpersonally and through the maintenance of institutionalized systems of dominance, oppression and coercion."
Aside from Shaw's projects, Director of Galleries Jacquelynn Sullivan, who curated the exhibit, said the 332 clothespins hung on the strings that guests see upon entering the exhibit are meant to represent the the first wave of Larry Nassar survivors.
“We also hope that it offers an opportunity for healing and an opportunity to make this a conversation that current students, faculty, staff, alumni and future students all have opportunity to be a part of,” Sullivan said.
The exhibit will run until March 2. Shaw will give a lecture about her social art pieces on Feb. 26 in the Natural Science building.