“Remembering our Sisters”, Photo by CHERIE WINTER via Bingara Visitor Information Centre
My interest in the visual arts combined with work in the domestic violence sector means I’m always on the lookout for avenues where the concept of violence is explored or presented in an unusual way. Art to me provides an excellent vehicle for this. It is a means for obscure concepts to be expressed more easily, which helps engage people in ideas, events, or stories they may usually avoid.
Recently, I came across an artist by the name of Paulette Hayes, who explored the circumstances of 79 Australian women who were murdered in 2013 by their husbands, partners, or men unknown to them. Paulette created delicate paper houses for each of the women that emphasised the fragility of their lives and how the murders occurred.
‘CONTROL. ABUSE. KILL. She’ll be Right Mate’ was the title of her show.
Another body of work of hers also shows the connection between intimate partner violence and the toxic masculine culture boys and men tend to grow up in.
Paulette used a very iconic Australian symbol: the bonds singlet – often referred to as the ‘wife beater’. Embroidered on these singlets were sayings such as ‘boys will be boys’, ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘wife beater’ – including for baby singlets starting from size 000.
The purpose of Paulette’s work was to strengthen the message that from a young age, boys are encouraged to act in ways that contribute to toxic masculinity and our patriarchal culture.
Beauty seduces and art can do the same. By creating beauty, Paulette is effectively seducing the viewer into thinking of circumstances that may be too horrific, confronting, or even difficult to speak about. In doing so, she is making space for conversations on topics that to most people are completely unthinkable. So, whether for healing or expressing a concept, art presents a powerful medium with powerful impact that can create huge change in the world.
Written by Marryanne