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Talk to the Hand

Inspirational women speak through these powerful images.

weaver-hawaiian-lee-ambas
Auntie Elizabeth Lee / Master Weaver, Ambassador of Hawaiian Culture, Lover of Life
MELANIE GREGG

The Art of Woman’s Voice

When my friend, the photographer Melanie Gregg, asked me to participate in an art project she was undertaking, it was at a very vulnerable time in my life. Since I was recovering from a bout with breast cancer, her question struck a chord deep within: How do we, as women, get from point A (disempowered) to point B (empowered) and what is the journey's message in one or two words? "Talk to the Hand – The Art of a Woman’s Voice," is a collection of portraits of women with words for themselves, other women, and the world they are hoping to impact. These are women of all ages and from all walks of life – actresses and accomplished military leaders, domestic goddesses and grandmothers undergoing chemotherapy, handicapped teens and professional athletes. They are you, and me, and your mothers/daughters/sisters/aunts/friends. They are voices demanding to be heard. – Justine Amodeo

I was in a time of personal transition and found myself sitting in a pool of questions.  I wondered why I had to work so hard for things and why there always seemed to be different forces of resistance. It’s true I had overcome some pretty tough obstacles, but was left feeling quite exhausted by the uphill journey. Ideas of creating a balanced and meaningful life as a mother, artist, partner, and individual began to occupy quite a bit of real estate in my head. So I began talking to other women… and the flood-gates opened.

Women laughed, unleashed, cried, and shared with me. It felt like all I had to do was barely scratch the surface, and feelings and stories seeped through their pores. Frustrations and struggles, joys and victories – I was caught off guard by how openly women spoke to me, even if I had just met them, about their experiences as a woman in today’s workforce, military, their own homes. I wondered if women just needed a good listener to sit across from them, but it didn’t seem that simple. Women needed to be heard.

This project was birthed out of curiosity and intrigue about the female spirit and her experience in today’s world. I explored the idea of what it means to be an empowered woman, and if that’s even how women feel, I was struck by one continuous theme: strength. I was blown away and inspired by the amount of strength women house within their spirits, and how generously they share it when given the opportunity. Women undergoing chemotherapy still making lunches for their kids every day and listening to their girlfriends’ latest life news. Widows, who are struggling to put food on their table, still encouraging their neighbors to have faith in the outcomes of life. Teenagers who are getting bullied for being different still determined to pursue their own dreams. Shark attack survivors who still want to competitively surf and always have a smile on their face regardless of losing a limb. Yep, that too.

"Talk to the Hand – The Art of a Woman’s Voice" is a photographic project that explores the plight to empowerment of women in today’s world. If it’s true that we as women have been reluctant to have our own voices, what has been the tape over our mouths (or minds and actions for that matter)?  Are we still oppressed as American women in 2013? Does society, our upbringing, our relationship(s), or mere circumstance deflate our balloon of empowerment? Or do we silence ourselves?

For this project, countless women have opened the door of their journey to share their experience of feeling silenced and empowered. "Talk to the Hand – The Art of a Woman’s Voice" showcases a collection of 21 portraits taken over 12 months. Each participant chose her own word(s) of empowerment to represent her journey, and ultimately represent all women. I think I can speak on behalf of the participants of this project (whether they were photographed or not) that we all feel more connected to ourselves and to each other than before. It’s not that we are anti-man (in fact we LOVE the men in our lives!) – it’s just that we are proud to be part of the tribe of women. So when our jobs, health, relationships, or society in general knock us down, we can borrow courage from ourselves or each other to get back up. And we may even have something to say about that when we do.

Talk to the Hand
The exhibition opens October 3, 6-9 p.m. at seven-degrees, Laguna Beach, and runs through the end of October. Two pieces will be featured at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art in Santa Ana’s Fall exhibition, “Compass – Navigating the Journey to Self-Identity,” opening Saturday October 5, 6-10 p.m. and running through November 16.
seven-degrees.com :: occca.org

Art by Melanie Gregg
Photographer, Artist, Educator, Mother, and Creative Activist
:: melaniegregg.com


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