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Fighting the Good Fight

Before the election last November, I was feeling hopeful. I had already completed an absentee ballot and was excited, because I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win. I didn’t understand why many were questioning her about what others, including her husband, had done in office. In general, I believed it was time for a woman president, and I agreed specifically with many of Hillary Clinton’s policies. She has worked hard in the past to make public schools accessible for disabled students, she has been very proactive around the world for the rights and protections of women and children, and she stated in this election that she would like to make state colleges available and affordable for everyone who wanted to attend. She’s been a lawyer, a first lady, a senator, and secretary of state. I agreed with President Obama when he stated at the Democratic National Convention that there may never have been a candidate more qualified to serve as president. I honestly didn’t care about her problems with email, or that she sometimes seemed stiff in front of an audience. Women are always being judged on how they look and on their personal lives, and certainly, some men are also, but, for men, these verdicts are not as automatic, nor as potentially damaging.

When I found out the morning after the election that Trump had won, I was crestfallen. He has made comments publicly that are racist, classist, sexist, ablest, and, in general, disrespectful of many American people. He has always been privileged and has never, in my opinion, even suggested that he might feel the least bit hesitant to serve this country per his own self-aggrandizing principles. I tried to keep up date on the news, but I couldn’t afford the time, energy, or disappointment it caused me. I have criticized Medicaid, but I am glad it was in place to help with my medical bills following my 2007 accident, when I was insured only by a policy I had purchased from the College Art Association. I have depended on insurance from my position at a state university for many expenses, because I am disabled, and I have friends for whom Obamacare worked. I see diversity as an American strength and am appalled by the idea of a wall, deportation, and the exclusion of refugees. I also dread that this administration may further deplete funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEA). And the environment!........In the first few weeks, all of Trump’s official appointments and orders have sickened me. I haven’t known what to do, so I have devoted my energies to my liberal studies classes. This term, I am teaching courses on the representation of women in visual culture and the portrayal of gender and sexuality in film. I wonder when and how recent events will be raised in these courses. I have also been reading, writing blog posts, and painting.

My husband, Paul, and I were happy to see his mother and sister, who drove to North Carolina from Massachusetts on their way to protest the inauguration and to participate in the women’s march. My sister-in-law had knitted me a “pussy hat,” a pink, wool hat with extended top edges that looked like they accommodated ears. Such hats were the accessory that would unite the people who would march in protest of Trump. I wore it proudly out to dinner in Durham on the day of the march and supported my friends who attended marches across the country. The hat reminded me of the imagery and performances of the feminist art movement in the United States, in which artists such as Carolee Schneeman, Judy Chicago, and Hannah Wilke flaunted and aestheticized female anatomy, as well as celebrated the efforts of women historically.

I was inspired to start a new series of paintings. I have done many pet portraits, especially of cats, as well as still life or individual “portraits” of animated and colorful flowers. I decided to combine such imagery in compositions of cats with dynamic flowers, which could be interpreted as anatomical and sexual, but in any case, they are lively in color and brushstroke. On the day of the women’s marches, I painted a black “tuxedo” kitten (a black cat with a white stomach, face, and collar) peering up, with bright blue, reflective eyes, at a twirling pink, orange, and red flower. The cat, the flower, and their surroundings are all in saturated color and abstracted, such that I was aiming to create emotion, connection, and adoration between the imagery, rather than to produce a photo-realistic portrayal. The big flower, in traditionally feminine hues, swirls with life and engages the imagery of the pink spiral found in many of my pieces. I titled this painting, “Fighting the Good Fight,” a line I drew from a feminist song by Ani DiFranco. This was my tribute to everyone who marched, rolled, held signs, signed, spoke, and yelled across the United States the day after inauguration, everyone who demanded to be accounted for, seen, and heard.

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