Twenty years of watching my mother endure an abusive marriage sparked my research into the female self-sacrifice complex. The self-sacrifice complex can take many forms, such as 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.
We all need our mothers to make some sacrifices for us to survive. However, we as a society have failed to separate the expectations of motherhood from the everyday expectations of women. Regardless of whether they are mothers or ever intend to become mothers, women are conditioned to sacrifice their needs for others. We have overextended mothers most of all, who now must care for their families, work full-time outside of the home, and tend to most household chores. In our patriarchal society, there is no coincidence that we have failed to address the family ideals that benefit men and suffocate women. Many scientists and philosophers present theories on what separates humans from animals. But something that does not separate us? Our species is still built upon the sacrifices of our female members.
My prints depict female members of the animal kingdom juxtaposed with the pointy forms I use in my sculptural work. The self-sacrifice complex is rooted in the role of motherhood and is tightly intertwined with female identity. Wild animals and insects demonstrate this on the most basic level. My work is inspired by the anatomy of these animals, but I am also fascinated by how the sex of the animal affects the course of its life. For example, the female Bighorn Sheep, called an ewe (depicted in my woodcut print), bears her offspring and cares for it for years. If the offspring is an ewe, she will stay with her mother for her entire life. However, if the offspring is a male, called a ram, then the mother cares for it for only two years, and then the ram roams off on his own, unburdened by any responsibility to other members of his species.
By assembling steel, nylon, and materials from domestic interiors, I fabricate forms in which the self-sacrifice complex manifests. In my art practice I utilize traditionally male-dominated trades, such as steel fabrication and relief printmaking, and traditionally female trades such as sewing to disrupt space and question our traditional perception of women. The forms I create contrast sharp points and soft edges, exploring juxtapositions of love and pain, of complacency and rage. This manifestation of the self-sacrifice complex confronts the viewer like a snake in the wild and demands consideration while navigating the gallery space.
My artwork is the language I created to express the female experience. Within this language I have found power in my identity and have created a contemplative space for others battling their own sacrifice complexes.
I welcome you to face yours.