retreat photos (2).jpg

THE 

VIRTUAL GALLERY SHOW

01/24/2021 - 02/24/2021

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Trauma can act as an open wound

or a puzzle with a missing piece. The Artemesias, the name of our art collective group, comprises three women who chose to face past sexual trauma head on by creating art about it on residency with the Kentucky Foundation for Women. At a moment in history when women have more to say than ever yet sexual abuse continues to skyrocket, we found the topic important and necessary to discuss, make art about, and heal from.

 

Trauma can make every person in  the world seem bad or evil and I’ve  found one way of healing has been  through talking about this enormous  topic with a diverse  group of people. By discovering  similarities of other peoples’ stories  with my own, I’m able to transform  how I view the world. Collage  represents this well: I tear pieces of  paper from all sorts of sources to  construct an image with meaning,  such as a portrait or something to  do  with my body. No matter where  the pieces have come from, I get to  control the outcome of their  conglomeration. Not every piece of  paper or mark in a collage seems  meaningful, but when they all come  together, they form something good.  Processing traumatic events as well  as the joyful ones is an important  step to becoming whole and to be  able to extend healing beyond just  ourselves. In creating emotive art  representing this process, we not  only heal ourselves, but let other  survivors know they are never alone. 

 

Throughout residency, we  discovered the power in sharing our  experiences, giving voice to our  darkest places and healing not only  through art-making, but in the  knowledge that we are not walking  our paths alone.

The Artemesias

Our group of three women has explored artistic expression by creating paintings and sketches of our female bodies while discussing our experiences with trauma to these bodies. We discovered the importance of the process of creating while sharing our sexual assault stories and how we have each come to disassociate with our bodies in different ways. By drawing upon our bodies for  inspiration to heal, we collect courage to face the truth, knowing we have each other if the truth is too scary to handle. As we expressed ourselves, we were also able to understand our different perspectives on the topic. We believe that talking about our experiences uncovers the truth, affecting healing in our lives and other survivors’ lives and that is why we share the work from this process.

Morgan has made studies of her body that led to bigger collage projects, incorporating paint, drawing, paper, and canvas. Through this process, she reconnected with her body, emotions, and spirit to construct mixed media pieces of her body, mixing up hands, feet, and torso to rearrange body parts in emotionally charged colors to resonate with survivors who view it.
Over the past few months, Megan has been working on intimate studies of her body, disconnected from the whole, in an effort to appreciate her body without judgement. She has also been using these studies to meditate over the “parts” of herself and the work she is doing in Internal Family Systems therapy. She has referenced these studies and created a large, culminating drawing of herself embodying her healing process and reconnection with her body as a whole.
Courtland has created paintings/studies that connect into her larger body of work allowing her to delve deep into her past and current experiences of abuse and assault and create paintings that result from internal reflection and healing. In creating these paintings, she has truly refocused the direction of her narrative in hopes to assist those who have survived their own battles of sexism, assault, or abuse.
 

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In my bodies of work I focus  largely on imagery that  reflects the traumas that I  have faced as a survivor of  sexual violence and  harassment, while also

referencing and redefining     how  viewers perceive the  traditional representations of fox  hunts and other animalistic hunt  scenes.
The use of the fox and other  animal masks in my works are  meant to represent the role that
women are compelled to  perform and our society’s  warped depiction of female  sexuality.
In this series I wanted to create a  more personal and raw  connection through style,
imagery, and medium. These  paintings unlike many of my  previous works which reference  a more baroque style of paint  application, are raw and meaty.  In this I wanted the viewers to  see every layer of paint from the  un-sanded gesso to the last  stroke of acrylic. This viscous
application of mediums  embodies the layers of trauma , anxiety, and self doubt that often
consume my mind when  revisiting moments of my own  mental wounds.
Though some wounds may never  completely heal, my  paintings allow me to release my
fears and traumas, while also  communicating a larger  message to the viewers. In each  painting, I create a world parallel  to that of our own that not only  reflects my own inner scars but  scars that have been inflicted  upon women throughout our  history. These visceral worlds  act  as a sort of mirror to our own  reality, documenting it and then  turning it back towards the  viewer in hopes that one day the  pain and suffering that women  have felt at the hands of rape  culture, sexual assault, abuse,  and harassment will be viewed  with eyes and minds unclouded  by societal norms and othering.

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My passion for drawing the human figure comes from a deep, authentic place of celebration within myself. Yet my relationship with my own body has been damaged by feelings of disgust and shame that were forced upon me by religious teachings, emotional abuse, and sexual trauma. The initial goal of this project was to take a step toward healing my relationship with my body, but as it progressed it expanded into a deeper reflection of my whole self.

 

I began this project simply as an exercise to observe my body as if it were a model’s: without judgement and as a subject to draw. I then moved from general sketches to more intimate acrylic studies of a few areas of my body that I currently have or have had tense relationships with. Using my artistic lens I was able to change the way I view my body and genuinely appreciate my figure. But inspired by the work I have been doing in Internal Family Systems therapy, I decided to move from representing just my physical form to illustrating the psychological parts of myself as well. The Internal Family Systems Model (IFS) is an approach to psychotherapy that works with a person’s mental system and sub-personalities. IFS believes that each person has a core Self and three different types of parts: exiles, managers, and firefighters. Exiles are the extreme, hurt parts of ourselves that have experienced trauma. Managers, like critics and caretakers, keep the person in control, and firefighters, like addictions, react quickly when exiles are triggered. The goal of IFS is to create harmony in the system and to build trust in the Self to lead with calmness, compassion, creativity, confidence, clarity, connectedness, and courage. 

 

Healing from trauma can be a frustrating, confusing process, especially when it feels like my parts are working against me. My initial reaction to my extreme parts, some of which I have chosen to illustrate in black ink, is usually to reject them. But I have to remember that each one has a function - to protect me. I have to trust my Self, which is illustrated in brown ink and colored pencil, to lead my system through the healing process. Ultimately this project evolved into my attempt to treat each part of myself with honor. Now when I see my artistic representations of my body and my parts, I feel more open to them and more connected with myself.

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Morgan McGill

Louisville, KY, USA

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