Artist Gayle Fitzpatrick creates an installation that heals and transforms . . . and tells a personal story of suffering and triumph
Gayle Fitzpatrick could be hiding...perhaps, she should be hiding.
She could remain anonymous strolling down the seaside resort towns of coastal Maine in dark sunglasses or blend seamlessly into the street crowds of Portland... instead she is choosing to fight back the best way she knows how and helping to heal herself as well as open a dialogue for others in the process.
It's an understatement to say that her latest work parallels her own personal story and viewing the work in person and understanding where it comes from, is at a minimum, superbly powerful.
"TURQUOISE IS ONE OF THE OLDEST PROTECTION AMULETS"
Fitzpatrick is working on an upcoming installation that will be presented at Engine in Biddeford Maine this May. This install will put the work, and her, front and center in the Southern Maine art community and with the press, which is no small feat of bravery considering Gayle's past. She has spent much of her previous artistic exploration vying for her sense of safety and place and had previously created work pieced together from a slightly more abstract angle of what she has gone through, mapping her way out.
"Healing and transformation take place over time, and it involves side trips. I was traveling in the dark, without a map."
The new work puts her story, and her, on full display uncorrupted and unapologetically. It presents with the soft and feminine colors of a gentle and kind infanthood and has an approachable heart-warming quality which successfully becomes a soft invitation to explore of the darker side and enduring edges that will gently walk you through the final (and more despicable) parable.
The upcoming install includes a beautiful formal dress, books and symbolic forms and icons that are fully created from paper that Fitzpatrick crafted from raw materials. The Japanese paper dress is a symbol of promise and joy for her, but it's filled with scars and repairs, it's cut and torn and repaired with red thread that is intentionally not cleanly finished. There are vignettes of her life attached directly within the dress, including prints of her previous "Without a Map" series. Gayle tells me that in one day, Maine's eight domestic violence programs served 439 victims and survivors and that 55 requests for services were denied due to lack of resources. She also stated...
"THE TURQUOISE GEMSTONE IS A STONE THAT REPRESENTS SELF-REALIZATION"
The final work begins to peak emotionally after realizing where all the pieces have come from, and the power of the symbolism in each and every choice that has been made for this piece.
"Sewing, quilting, and knitting have traditionally been labeled as "woman's work". I've deliberately included these into the install because they are part of our total history as a civilization. Artists create. Artists repair and rearrange. We are all artists, each of us the creator of our own life."
FItzpatrick has created a true visual diary of everything it means to be a survivor of domestic violence. The healing process is evident in the creation and the where, who and why of how she ended up in a violent situation does not much matter, it's the compass that guides where she is going where the actualization rests its strength.
"In 2013, 5,487 domestic violence incidents were reported to Maine Law Enforcement, comprising almost half of assault reports. Many other domestic violence incidents went unreported. Arrests were made in only 17.4% of reported incidents."
There is a collection of handmade books that lay at the base of the dress.
Last fall, Gayle lead a workshop on bookbinding where other survivors crafted their own books, They spent hours meticulously sewing and crafting the books that will be borrowed as part of this installation. The books will be sealed shut and become a library that is evidence of remembrance.
"The books will be sealed shut."
The allegory continues in each and every created piece including small, clean white paper hearts that she hands to other women as "Orders for Protection from Violence". There are snippets of torn up court papers hidden throughout the work and blocks of beautifully colored papers from a series Fitzpatrick calls "One in Four" which fills an entire wall behind the dress display.
"Each piece is composed of a handmade sheet of paper measuring 8"x10" and has four 2"x2" squares attached. One square is different."
The series blocks in her background and sets the same soft inviting tone for exploration.
"One in Four women will be a victim of Domestic Violence."
The art deservingly laments how the system and courts 'handles' women in domestic violence cases and concurrently fully hands the power back to Woman with a kind and guiding hand. Gayle certainly isn't bitter or angry about her past, she instead has handed this story over to give others strength, statistics and ownership of what it means to be a modern woman that has had to overcome brutality, oppression or raw fear while holding on to traditions that are emotionally endearing. This presentation is a persuasive and compelling way for us to move forward to remember these important statistics and begin to consider a future that does not reject, injure or ignore our Mothers and Daughters.
May I just take a moment to scream....
Brava Gayle Fitzpatrick!
Whether you are an art lover or patron or just curious, for sure this is the one art installation this year not to be missed.
written by: Erin Thomas
Art, Culture, Unity and Soul