In the series titled Baby Guns, I use art to travel back in time to give my younger self the power to defend herself and to seek solace through unrealized justice.
One day I imagined a baby holding a gun and it made me laugh out loud, delighting me in an extraordinary way. I began searching through my baby pictures for a good image that I could work with, but could not find a suitable one. Instead, I found pictures of myself trapped in nefarious, secret timelines, frozen in eternal circumstance of vulnerability, masked by a façade of quotidian events and sealed in the axiology of suburbia. I then began looking for images of guns in books and magazines. This was my first exposure to guns and I became fascinated with their names and how they related to themes of sexual abuse, violence and empowerment. I chose photographs from pivotal moments in my life, such as my first grade graduation from a Catholic School and my First Communion, and interjected into my past by digitally placing images of guns into my little hands. This immediately gave me control which was taken away from me and empowered me to evolve the series further.
I used a found, baby-sized bedspread to embroider a RageShameRageShame mandala in the center, along with more guns. This was a reference to bedtime and sleep, which is a vulnerable time for a child and sadly the time when many children are sexually abused. At the same time, I re-discovered glitter and was intrigued by its contradictory, out-of-control quality. Suddenly I remembered those numerous and incongruous feelings and sensations I experienced during my own childhood trauma and the recovery associated with it. As a response, I used this anguishing, cognitive dissonance between the playfulness of a medium and the seriousness of the subject matter to create Glitter Guns, a piece which I made by drawing with glue then covering it with glitter. These swirling lines are reminiscent of ejaculation, and at the same time celebratory in their application.
The installation Army of Me began when I found a stuffed lion at a garage sale and saw the composition in my mind’s eye. I collected stuffed animals from thrift stores and garage sales, found water pistols that looked realistic, which I then painted black, and acquired a life-like baby doll. I lined the animals on a shelf in a gallery space. Each animal held a gun, including the Tasmanian Devil and the Peek-a-Choo. The baby doll was placed above her army, as though she were floating, against tulle fabric which referenced baby bassinets. She looked like the ascending Christ, perfect and untouchable. Her hovering is also reminiscent of the dissociation that abuse victims often experience.
The process of making Baby Guns was both frightening and empowering. It was a large part of how I healed from my childhood trauma. Yet it is only later that I realized that by intervening in my history through a creative act, I moved beyond the role of victim and experienced my identity as an artist and a whole, deserving person.