As International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women crosses the globe it feels apt and appropriate to present new contributor to BALACLAVA.Q, US-based artist Lisa McNeil and their series SILENCED WOMEN (2016).
McNeil presented the following words to me via several emails, refuting any connection to “artistic statement”. In true queer-art essense McNeil disrupts and presents WORD WARPS (a self termed descriptor), in their own right a proclamation, a non-statement (?), McNeil says:
WORD WARPS (via email)
I keep praying to hear the right words, to hear the sounds conglomerate into full meaning, to grasp a nuance even after the syllables evaporate. And so I listen intently for others to speak out about self-love and self-respect and self-anything that might fill me with momentary strength. And when it doesn’t come a matte finish slides over me, obscuring all the pent-up anger and brushing all the angles into softer grains.
This was not to supposed to happen to me.
I did not grow up, sprout breasts and menstruate to unite with a man who is four years dying yet still very much alive–just visible behind the junkie eyes. Beyond the pupils, I still catch a glimpse beyond a shell. But because I wait for a death, life lingers so, pulling each day into years of submission.
If I were shallow I would have vamoosed by now. I would have packed up. If I were even a little more certain of my worth, I would have left as well, brimming over with a Nancy Reagan “just say no” mentality. But Nancy Reagan was a twit. She uttered a slogan and never bothered with the reality.
Occasionally, I rise up from the trash heap and reach out. I get right to the root of the problem. Listeners don’t like dilly-dallying. And then, almost immediately, I record a sifting of sorts on their expression. My words are dismissed because they clash so with sensibility and reason. “So get out.” Problem, solution. And so I am left feeling naked and stupid and dismissed. I want to shift the balance a bit. Forget about telling your kids not to do drugs, I want to say, tell them not to fall in love with someone who does drugs. or just as important, tell them to skedaddle at the sign of first usage, regardless of the years invested. Tell your kiddies that otherwise, they will forget the comfort of warmth, the hope of holidays, even the luxury of cabinets filled with ingredients. They will clutch a heating pad for warmth at night. Their wardrobe will consist of two pairs of pants. A broken tooth will stay broken. They may never stop loving, but it will only get worse. I think that this may hit home a bit-if they imagined their child in these circumstances. Perhaps it would appear a little less flat to them, a little less cut and dried. But I say none of these things.
Throughout these years, I heard, absorbed, dismissed and rallied around a dictionary of excuses, platitudes and promises. I learned that words mean nothing. In the end, I learned to sit calmly and decide if decide if weariness brought acceptance of the moment or scurried away to be replaced by rage. I hated and I loved. Because how does one not learn not to love when two bodies cling and weep and swear for a better tomorrow? What happens to assurances of no more yesterdays, and promises of wardrobe and vacations and ingredients and no IRS on your back? Does the rage eat your head and your heart? Or does love eat the rage because here you still are? Perhaps love is a matte and rage is a gloss, slapping away at each other for the finish line.
All copyright belongs to the artist: Lisa McNeil (2016)
You can view McNeil’s works at GreenLeaf Gallery, Pennsylvania (USA)