How We Got Here

March 28, 2015

I am excited to share this Hyperallergic article, How We Got Here: Portrait of the Artist as a Queer Feminist.

Clarity Haynes (an amazing artist and writer), brought together the voices/images of five queer feminist artists. I am honored to bring my Mormon feminism to the table, alongside Chitra Ganesh, Karen Heagle, Ginger Brooks Takahashi, and Leah DeVun.

This article comes at an especially meaningful time. I’ve been in hibernation since the end of September, slowly healing from a ruptured appendix (I was in the hospital the weekend of Greenpoint Open Studios, but still thrilled to be included in this Hyperallergic Guide). Happy to report my energy is starting to pick up and I’m looking forward to getting my creative work back up and running again.

Here is my writing from the article:
I was fundamentally shaped by my upbringing within a religious women’s community. I was raised in Provo, Utah, in the 1970s and 80s (Mormon, of course). Starting at age 12, the final hour of Sunday’s three-hour church service was gender segregated. I would head to the Young Women’s meeting while the boys would go to priesthood meeting. Looking back, I can see all kinds of problems with this structure, but at that moment in time I loved it. While I was quiet and shy at school, I thrived within this intimate, women’s-only social space. Gathering weekly for service and social activities, I especially loved hanging out with our adult women leaders, building friendships and getting a glimpse into the mysteries of adult life.

By the time I went to college at Brigham Young University, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the doctrinal and cultural gender disparity within Mormonism. But I quickly found that I wasn’t alone in my frustration. The early nineties brought a new surge of Mormon feminism, as quiet conversations and scholarship began to reach the public eye. As a student, I immersed myself in research, and found classes that challenged my sense of the world, including a paradigm-shifting Sociology of Gender class. I was riveted by scholarship detailing the history of my early Mormon foremothers — stories of women banding together to deal with illness, poverty and the daily labor required of all in the 19th-century West. And I was surprised to read stories of women running cooperative businesses, going back East to attend medical school, publishing a women’s newspaper (the Woman’s Exponent) and serving as leaders in the local and national suffrage movement. These narratives continue to hold great emotional weight for me, and serve as a source for my work today.

One of the feminist scholars who helped nurture my growing identity was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian (A Midwife’s Tale) and one of the founders of the feminist Mormon magazine, Exponent II (still in publication 40 years later). Moving to Chicago in 1995 to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, I finally had access to a world of queer texts, which I quickly devoured — Dorothy Allison, Audre Lorde, Joan Nestle, Leslie Feinberg, memoirs, novels, histories, and more than one book about lesbian nuns. All of these feminist and queer writings gave me a foundation, a sense of a bigger community, and a space to both wrestle with and embrace my varied roots.

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