This years recipients were:
Theater & GSFS major
Project Title: Windows
Project Description: Forthcoming
Creative Writing & Visual Arts major
Project Title: Echoed
Project Description: Echoed is a sequence of prose poems using images as footnotes, loosely based off the myth of Echo. This myth allowed me to explore traditional gender relationships, the idea of losing oneself in a partner, while complicating it by imposing a new context. In my retelling, Echo does not lose her voice, but her sense of self is ruptured by this event and the process of re-thinking it allows her to eventually become more at home within her body. They explore her thought process, a search for articulation through the key of silence. The constant thread of sculpture is a key element in this question of body and voice. The way in which she expresses herself is two-dimensional, a queer form of images and words, which itself makes a case for something less binary than man/woman. However, they are still flat, a construction of the event and the sculptures, alluding to her own memory as a construction. In choosing the sculptors I would address, I tried to select a range of lesser-known artists with the secondary goal of bringing attention to their work.
Through the text, Echo also traces experiences of violence, particularly sexual violence and how those can relate to the idea of voice-- from the sculptor giving the lion his own tongue and Echo's story of the neighbor shoving his tongue in her mother’s mouth. Echo subverts ideas of how one can speak through silence and through another’s words (echoing), while addressing how women have been silenced.
Finally, the thread of motherhood runs through the piece. What does it mean to be the daughters our mothers have made? The mothers became a place to explore a range of the ways women are socialized, and for me to explore my own relationship with my mother, how I might be an echo of her, her own sculpture of flesh. Or how I might re-create and re-voice myself.
Project Title: Theorizing Women
Project Description: Forthcoming
Cinema Studies major
Project Title: Leave Kentucky
Project Description: My mother died when I was three. For obvious reasons I never really knew her. I tried for several years to know her through her mother, which ended up doing me more damage (both personal as well as to the memory of my mother) than good. This project is a feature length (90-page) screenplay about my grandmother’s funeral, which hasn’t occurred. The intention behind it was to write about the intimate discomfort that comes with the death (and consequent, absolution) of a difficult person, amidst a group of unfamiliar people, particularly when those people are family.
Unexpectedly, this project became more an exploration and mediation on the living than the dead. I am the middle child of three girls. My mother was the youngest of three girls. My father has three younger sisters. I have grown up, in a sense, surrounded by women. However, being mostly raised by a male figure made it difficult to embrace any real sense of female identity. Growing up, all of my friends were boys and I had a mild distrust or discomfort when dealing with women. This discomfort grew more debilitating as I entered college and found many of my peers identifying as or embracing a female identity (or whichever gender or identity they assumed) in a way that I had not yet comes to terms with. It took writing about women, particularly the women in my family, to acknowledge my own understanding of the benefits of self-identifying.
I believe it took me so long to acknowledge and champion this female strength, because it was not necessarily feminine or defined by a hierarchical schema of qualities and traditions, making it difficult to identify. Rather, I came to know it as an inherent support structure designated to applaud the efforts of women professionally, personally, and holistically. In my writing I drew upon my realities to illustrate the often unspoken solidarity between sisters, both the proximal and the distal. The screenplay deals with a time of grief and the way differences of grieving practices are often problematized in the bonds of an implicit female understanding. Their ideas and practices are often different, but they struggle with these discrepancies because they are never alone or unconsidered. Meanwhile, it is easy to forget that the men in the script are dealing with their own grief as they are often solitary and unassisted. It was only through my writing process that I realized the male independence I often envied contains a loneliness that I feel grateful, because of my female community, to not experience in my daily life.
Project Title: The Lady Doth Protest: Re-Wrighting Protest Ideologies in the Chicago Black Renaissance
Project Description: This project started like so many others with frustration; frustration that in Richard Wright's classic work, Native Son, I couldn't see a viable female character that was fully portrayed and empathetic. Wright's women often seemed one-dimensional, and his black women even more forgettable. In one English course, I distinctly recall one student admitting he had forgotten Bessie's existence. I had not. I was terrified to be her, to have my life used to further the agenda of another while remaining utterly insignificant. I had to find a better alternative; this led me to Gwendolyn Brooks and Lorraine Hansberry, and their works, Maud Martha and A Raisin in the Sun, respectively. Both women found a way to reassert the importance of African-American females by re-writing aspects of native son in their one works. In Maud martha Brooks is able to reinterpret the quintessential rat scene to show a feminine approach that precludes violence. Both women are able to find and model success in a bleak world.
Project Title: black & gray
Project Description: black&gray is a photo project depicting body modification, in the form of tattoos and piercings, on the bodies on queer people of color. I come to this project exploring Carla Kaplan’s theory on the subversion of identity. To subvert, in this context, means to disconnect ourselves from the idea that we are indefinitely bound to the characteristics that compose our bodies. Instead, we are called to recognize the fluidity of identity; how it is constantly in flux and is performative. I began to think of and explore this theory specifically through the lens of body modification. Examining the (semi)permanence of piercings and tattoos, I wondered, do these forms of body modification further define our identities? Is there a way in which these modifications further describe ‘how’ we identify, rather than ‘what’ we are?
I chose to use queer, raced bodies as subjects to further complicate and explore this question of performative subversion. How do we perform our queerness subversively, within the bounds of our racial identities? What does queerness, as a performance, even mean for the raced body? Further, when one maps these body modifications onto a queer, racialized canvas, where does this body fit into societal understandings of identity and sexuality?