artist statement

We rely on women to deny their physical and emotional safety to provide for everyone else. This reality is rooted in the role motherhood, tightly intertwined with female identity and reinforced by religious teachings.

Twenty years of watching my mother endure an abusive marriage sparked my research into the female self-sacrifice complex, which holds deep roots in traditional American culture.

Rural America still operates on a binary gender system, where biological sex assigned at birth affects most aspects of one’s upbringing, career expectations, and roles within the family. The self-sacrifice complex, which disproportionately affects mothers in low-income families, can take the form of staying in patterns of abusive relationships, performing extensive emotional labor for partners and family members, and depriving oneself to ensure the family’s needs are met first.

My work embodies an abstract emotional response to my experiences. By assembling steel, nylon, and materials from the domestic interior, I fabricate forms in which the self-sacrifice complex manifests. In my art practice I utilize both traditionally male-dominated trades, like steel fabrication, and traditionally female trades, like sewing to create sculptures that disrupt space and question the daily sacrifices we ask of women. This immortalization of the sacrifice complex confronts the viewer, like a snake bearing its fangs, and demands concern when navigating the space.

My recent work increasingly analyzes toxic intimate relationships, trauma bonds, and generational mental illness, which are perpetuated by self-sacrifice tendencies. The unique forms I create balance contrast between sharp points and soft edges, exploring opposites of love and pain, of complacency and range. The result is a dissection of my deepest inner conflicts learned from shame, dependency, neglect, and trauma that plagued a poor family in the rural Midwest.

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© 2020 ABBI RUPPERT