Monday, July 18, 2016

Women warriors (#RNCinCLE)

Women art warriors.

In the early hours on Sunday, just before dawn, more than 100 brave Cleveland women rose together, holding mirrors overhead to expose the naked truth about the Republican Party and making art with what may be the most controversial subject in this presidential race: a woman's body. 

New York-based artist Spencer Tunick, best known for organizing large scale nude shoots, has chosen The Land once again (in 2004 he created an installation where he photographed 2,754 naked people on East 9th Street). When it was announced that Cleveland would host the Republican National Convention, Tunick knew exactly what kind of art he wanted to create.   

"To me, [the work] references equality not only in the workplace, but in government," Tunick said about Everything She Says Means Everything in a recent interview. "Once there are more women in government, I think it is going to be a more peaceful world."

I'm inspired by Tunick's work and I'm even more inspired by my friend, Shauna Davis, for volunteering to be a part of the project. She and some 120 Cleveland-area women were chosen among 1,800 who applied to participate.

"It was so powerful, I feel like I was a part of history," she says. "It was an awesome feeling of camaraderie. And there were so many women of different body types, ages and races. There was even a trans woman. [Tunick] was so intentional when he and his team picked these women to take part."

Perhaps even more impressive was Tunick's sensitivity not only to the art but to his models. Not wanting the shoot to turn into a "press circus," Shauna says they were instructed to bring bed sheets to the installation space (a sprawling piece of un-manicured grass in The Flats, off of Scranton Road). At first she was puzzled.

"He said he wasn't sure if the police would come and he didn't invite the media," Shauna says. "He didn't want to make a spectacle of it. So the sheets were to build a wall around us, to protect us in case we needed it." 

Tunick also shared what the work meant on a personal level. As parents of two daughters, he and his wife (an Akron native) wanted them to have more choices, he told the women. The Republican Party, he said, doesn't represent that.

Though getting nude in public isn't new -- Shauna's participated in seven naked bike rides -- Sunday's event was even more poignant.

"I don't really do political things," she says. "But when we shined those mirrors on the convention center, it was like a silent protest." 

Everything She Says Means Everything by Spencer Tunick.
Prisma photo courtesy of Shauna Davis.