Last November, my grandfather, father, and I embarked on a cross-country trek from Madison, Wisconsin to Dallas, Texas. Our goal was to reconnect my grandfather with his history and roots. The struggle of redemption and validation reappeared as a dominant theme. Identity and perspective appeared like a mirage on life’s highway.
During the excursion, I sat in the backseat of my father’s truck. My grandfather was in shotgun position charge of quality control. Sturdy and compliant, my father’s driving mirrored a patient god. My job was to ensure safe passage and provide immediate evidence of accurate directions. A laptop with Internet access saved the day and our sanity.
Semi trucks dominated the trip’s roadways with high volume commerce. This is the business of America and the pulse of its identity. Truck stops and gas stations showcase orderly parked trailers and services. Personalization from color, lights, and trucker flaps provide unique identities. Unapologetically, companies and culture are proudly displayed without hesitation.
A reoccurring visual pattern and popular trucker mud flap is the silhouette of a “sexy” trucker girl. Sudden and visually painful flashbacks of my undergraduate art history courses crossed my mind. French Rococo paintings of naked women with rosy derrieres pointed to the sky haunt me. The male gaze continues today from the rear end of a semi-truck.
My art practice investigates symbols of influence that impact perception. A standard trucker mud flap has been repurposed altering its function. When Donald J. Trump became President he was greeted with the Women’s March, confronted by sexual abuse victims, and ultimately ignited the #metoo revolution. The structures of gender objectification are interwoven into systemic discrimination and consumerism. Women are not sex objects or empty silhouettes. We must reject and reclaim cultural symbols.
The momentum of gender inclusion will continue in 2018. Leadership and accountability must start at the top. Believe, support, and respect individuals who come forward. Goodbye to repressive networks in the review-view mirror. Let’s work and drive together on the turbulent road of equality….