I had always found Jenny Ashley's lampshade images eerily beautiful, haunting, and ultimately disturbing. But here's the most freaky thing. I wasn't 100 percent sure why. It's not often that I catch myself off-gaurd emotionally, but that's what good art does. It yanks you from your bubble and smacks you in the face.
Was it the fact that the womens' faces are hidden, cloaked, robbed of their humanity? Was it the fact that the women stood rigid and still, like Barbies or mall mannequins? Was it the fact that I, too, had actually felt like a lampshade waiting in the corner of the room, begging for someone--anyone--to take me seriously at a party?
Whether nude and standing next to a dilapidated barn, lurking in the corner of a lavish locale like Madonna Inn, or donning a frumpy dress while standing in a quiet, suburban living room that might smell of tater tots and clorox bleach, all of Jenny's girls shared a similar quality. They were quietly, scathingly desperate. They had dreams they could not articulate. They were not self-actualized.
Why did this make me feel so uncomfortable? What was it in me that reacted so strongly to her art? I found them threatening but attractive.
That wondering why--that exploration of the large lump that formed in the back of my throat--is what made me say "yes" to posing for a series right here in my living room, bedroom, and air bnb (that's our "chicken shack," with the Vagina-esque wallpaper, seen below).
I like doing things that tug at my curiosity, that open up my heart fully and scare me a little.
A lamp is a terrifying object to become. Strangely, donning the lampshade felt comfortable to me. I have felt like an object, useful or not so useful, many times in my 30 years. maybe that's the scariest part.
Think about it.
The world is always turning women "on" or "off." We are found useful only in certain, specific moments: as mother, wife, sex object, or martyr. Then, we are swiftly and mercilessly turned "off."
What I offer here is a question. Could we work to turn ourselves on? Mentally? Sexually? Philosophically? Could we illuminate our own lives. Could we ask ourselves that scary but all important question: Who am I? What am I doing here?
Or...in short: What lights ME up inside? Thank you Jenny for pushing me to ask that question of myself. To dig deeper, be bolder, burn brighter.