Nigerian writer Ben Okri said: “Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”
My first assumption is that it’s worthwhile to hear women’s voices, and my second assumption is that those voices have been too often ignored – in general quotation collections and in common use. And because those voices have been ignored, it might be possible to imagine that women were less vocal, less wise, less inspirational than the many men who are widely quoted. Women were painting and writing, but after the children were fed, the husband’s needs were taken care of, the house was cleaned. What women have done through the years has been relatively ignored and is deemed unimportant. Gloria Steinem stated that there would be no equal rights until the rights of the average woman are equal to those of the average man. The stories of the women who came before us not only tell us of their pain and tragedy, it shows their ingenuity, their courage, their trust, their vulnerability.
The voices of women have been silenced by gender bias, war, poverty, racism and religious persecution. “Jane Doe” brings to life the voices of forgotten women who have contributed to the framework of society, who carried on traditions of their ancestors, persevered and carried the dreams of their generation in their hearts. I chose the name “Jane Doe” as all of these women are unknown to us and yet they have had impact on our lives. I wish to honour them and to give voice to their stories. All of these stories are true and are based on information gathered from interviews with relatives, photos, letters and archives. My hope is that this exhibit will give others the courage to tell their stories.They are not famous. They are known by their families, children, grandchildren, whose lives are influenced directly by the choices made by these women. They are in our DNA. There bodies return to the earth and sustain us, their spirits are alive in their words and the history that they have left behind.
Jane Doe gives voice to the average woman. The significance of this body of work is that it further enhances the concept of communication through the layering of sculpture, text, installation, painting and video.
Entering the exhibit, the viewer is surrounded by a forest of trees, which house the death masks of these women, signifying their bodies have returned to the earth. Here we encounter death.
On the other side of the forest the viewer is introduced to each individual Jane Doe in the painting, who emerge from the wax to tell us their stories, pieced together from fragments of memory. Underneath each painting, is an opened book that reveals their names, their photographed images and their story. Here we encounter sprit.
Beyond the world of spirit the viewer is introduced to a video of individual who share their experiences of both losing and finding their voices. In front of the video are two trees with two questions: “When have you lost your voice and when have you found it?” The viewer is now a participant and has the opportunity to give voice to his/her own experience by writing the answer on a tag and placing them on the trees. Here we encounter life.
By hearing their stories, we can look at our own. We can see the influences we make upon others and how we can change the world around us