I started this project with the question, “What would it look like if women were in equal positions of power?” I meant it figuratively but also literally, what would it ”look” like. If you peruse United States history textbooks, books, photographs, and paintings women are largely invisible. This omission was not at accident. Nor was it just. Women of different races, ethnicities, classes, abilities, and orientations are part of our history. They fought for rights, freedom, and equality and they were integral to every great moment in our history.
In my project, The Visible Woman, I studied the deliberate ways men kept women from participating in the public sphere. From John Adams to John Glenn, our “heroes” kept women down. The accomplishments of white men, the content of most history texts, need to be reenvisioned with the understanding that they did not achieve something extraordinary compared to the entire populace, but only to other white men. And while many fought bravely for their rights and freedoms many also actively fought to keep all women and all people of color from exercising those same freedoms.
Women influenced the world despite civil and social discriminations. But too much of women’s energy went towards fighting just to be seen and heard. What power, intelligence, and wisdom was spent fighting gender and racial inequality that could have been put to remedy the ills that belabor all people?
During the course of my project I created three art pieces, Independence, Peace, and All-American, photoshopping an equal number of women into paintings and photographs from US history. I also researched the history of each original image, putting them into historical, cultural, and social context, researched the lives of the 62 women I added to the pictures, and wrote short biographies for each of them.
Lastly, I looked at how the fight for gender and racial equality are manifesting today, both internationally, from Canada to Syria, and in the US, from college campuses to Broadway. That essay is coming soon.