Suellen Parker statement

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God Has Given You Minds Statement

“God has given you minds, dear girls, as well as it is your duty to develope your immortal powers. Your life work is not simply to attract man or please anybody, but to mould yourselves into a grand and glorious womanhood.”
~ Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Our Young Girls” 1872

God Has Given You Minds is a collection of portraits of women in the US Congress and Senate. They are clothed in suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s speech “Our Young Girls” 1872, and adorned by photos of documentation by Harris & Ewing of the suffrage movement protests in Washington DC in 1917. The portraits are created through a mixed media process combining sculpture, photo collage and digital painting.

This work pays homage to the women who bravely stood strong years before and who currently stand strong and speak boldly even when those in power would rather them only be seen and not heard. The portraits serve as a reminder of the fight women have been fighting for hundreds of years and continue to fight today to be heard as an equal voice.

– Suellen Parker-Shockley, 2019

Letting Go Statement

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we are supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means cultivating the courage to be imperfect . . . and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.”
– Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection

Letting Go investigates how an individual can find his or her own voice in this over stimulating world full of standards and ideas that tell us the right way to be. In my previous body of work, Incurable Perfection, the characters look to culture for guidance on how to create themselves. In Letting Go, the characters look within themselves to find out who they are, letting go of cultural standards and expectations. By taking a break from the chaos of daily life, they are able to connect with themselves through stillness and play; two ways to listen and discover one’s authentic self. The hope is that within these moments, the characters will let go of their expectations of how they should be, allowing space for their behaviors and appearances to reflect who they are.

At the core of cultural standards are the passionately followed and quietly, yet firmly, enforced rules of one’s assigned gender, often difficult to let go. The male/female gender binary tells us how to walk, play, love, dress, speak and feel. These rules are engrained in our being from birth and give us a guide through which to judge others and ourselves. This is problematic because it fosters shame and secrecy, limits self-expression and suppresses our inner intuitive voice. Instead of limiting themselves to the prescribed gender, my characters open up to a more authentic expression of self by exploring aspects of both masculine and feminine qualities. This exploration allows for more freedom of expression, creativity and individuality.

My characters are attempting to find a sacred space, a place of vulnerability, a place where they allow themselves to be really seen. By quieting one’s life, even momentarily, an opportunity is presented to learn truths about oneself. By engaging in private play, one is able to let go of expectations and rules. The result is a private and truthful moment that may be enjoyed without fear of consequences. In taking this step they risk ridicule and judgment, but they also bet on happiness, creativity and change. The irony is that if you look at our greatest role models, inventions and significant historical moments of positive change, you will see an authentic expression at its core. Brené Brown, a researcher of vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame, has concluded from her research “vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” Yet we seemed to stay away from vulnerability and stay in the safety of dictated roles and rules because it is easier and safer. She continues with the thought “[i]f you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

If we can ask questions instead of judging, and look to our authentic voice rather than modeling ourselves after the prescribed standard, I believe we will open ourselves up for an exciting, harmonious life.