Friday, November 10, 2017


Several  artists who participated in the recent WCAGA ART+ACTIVISM Art of the Protest Show wrote brief statements about their work, which have been compiled in prior blog posts. However, Sandrine Arons, ART+ACTIVISM artist, had a lot more to say. Rather than only posting an excerpt, below is Arons’ full essay about her work Enough is Enough. As she said when submitting her words, “Thanks for this opportunity to express myself (it helps me get things straight in my mind and heart)”. 
Susanna and the Elders by Tintoretto  

“Enough is Enough” – The story behind the work
Photo Composite by Sandrine Arons

When I saw the call for the Art of Protest exhibit I was honestly a bit overwhelmed because my first thought was “where do I even begin?” We find ourselves in a time when there is so much to protest that I feel like my mind, emotions and hands (all used to process) can’t handle the increasing daily threat to our rights as individuals, in this country in particular, but in the world in general. There are so many ways that art can shed light on the issues and it also has the wonderful capacity to calm the mind and serve as a therapeutic tool.  My busy schedule often doesn’t leave me enough time to create the kind of art that expresses the inner workings of my mind and the kind of emotions that arise from my sometimes obsessive thoughts on current events. I feel like I simply displace the thoughts into the back of my mind to reach back for later, but these days it feels like it is all piling up and overflowing. 
For this exhibit, I decided to work on a piece that deals with a struggle I feel I have been fighting my entire life: women’s rights.  Until about 6 or 7 years ago I heartily believed that, even though true equality between the sexes still did not exist, we were moving in the right direction. Though I have always pushed against the gender binary, my battles with this felt  small and personal, albeit meaningful to me. Women’s voices were being heard and action was being taken at all levels, or so I thought. But even prior to this current administration, I began to notice a shift backwards. I noticed it not so much in the laws, as much as in the daily conversations I was having with male friends who were expressing a kind of frustration with “feminism” and “equality” (and some female friends as well who subscribe to well-defined gender roles).  They felt they were experiencing a reverse discrimination in the workplace or in family matters. Many expressed feeling it was unfair to have to work AND help with domestic chores. Many felt that it was unfair that they HAD to pay alimony to support their ex-wives even though those wives had given up careers to stay at home. They felt it was unfair that women form professional women’s groups to help themselves advance in a company structured around men’s needs. How many big companies, for example, offer daycare centers instead of gyms? I could empathize, but I would also point out why fairness in all those things is important and how men have never had to fight for those rights; they were born with them. The workplace was designed for them more than for women and this needs to change.
Enough is Enough by Sandrine Arons

Today we have a president who not only embodies those expressions of insecurity, but who is acting on and trying to change the laws women have fought so greatly and passionately to obtain.  And we have a vice-president who cannot even be alone with a woman because he sees only her potential as a sexual object whose seductive qualities may interfere with his own fidelity towards his spouse. Just writing that last sentence points to the absurdity and truly disheartening position into which women are now being driven. This is a reality I never truly felt as a woman born in the 70’s. I heard the stories of my mother’s generation and what they did to advance women’s rights. I heard stories from my mother that sounded so out of sync with my own reality that I was thankful that our culture had moved beyond that. For example, when my mother (who is French) first came to the United States in the early 60’s and wore her little French bikini on the beach, she was escorted off the beach by security because women were not allowed to show their belly buttons on public beaches. Whenever I heard that story, I laughed. How ridiculous! Wow! So glad we’re no longer there. So glad America has progressed. BUT YET, here we are again.  That could happen again if the men in power continue to slowly but surely cut away our rights. And, especially if women don’t speak up.

I chose the quotes that are printed on my piece to express how devastating and dangerous the laws against women can be. For decades, these laws have existed on the books but have been generally considered absurd and rarely acted upon.  However, with our current conservative and evangelical leaders, the possibility of recreating the same reality my mother lived is ever-increasing. And this is what prompted “Enough is Enough”. As a woman, I feel that my existence and my right to live freely is being threatened every day. I believe for months I have been riding a fog of disbelief (though not denial) that many of the rights I was born into are being reconsidered and up for debate. Instead of moving forward, this administration is hoping to move the clock backwards. That is why I chose Tintoretto’s 1555 masterpiece “Susanna end the elders” as the backdrop for my photograph.  The story of Susanna is copied below but exemplifies so much of the hateful, demeaning rhetoric and physical violence that women experience still today.  I see Trump and Pence now as symbols of the frustration those men in my life alluded to; their dissatisfaction and fear of women demanding rights to their own bodies, to equal pay, to full equality.  I’m not sure this is the result they wanted, but I believe the current administration echoes their fears and their silence is deafening. 
“Enough is Enough” is a reminder that this is an ancient and constant battle and that the aggression towards women and the obstruction to equal rights needs to STOP.  The road signs remind us to be cautious and keep alert for potential obstacles. The expression on my face in the painting is one of shock, the disbelief that we are back to this. Trump’s facial expression is one of violence, hatred and disdain while Pence appears to passively partake in the savagery of the moment silently and lustfully. The STOP signs communicate the female’s refusal to participate in this drama. No man, no matter how powerful, has the right to grab a woman however he chooses and no man has the right to tell a woman what she can or can’t do with her body. Trump and Pence taking the place of the two elders from Tintoretto’s painting is a way of expressing my desire that they also lose in the court of public opinion, and perhaps beyond that one day in legal court, much like in the story of Susanna and the Elders.
 Until then, let the protests go on…

Susanna and the Elders
Based on the 13th chapter from the Book of Daniel:

1 Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim:
2 And he took a wife, whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Helcias, a very beautiful woman, and one that feared God.
3 For her parents being just, had instructed their daughter according to the law of Moses.
4 Now Joakim was very rich, and had an orchard near his house: and the Jews resorted to him, because he was the most honourable of them all.
5 And there were two of the ancients of the people appointed judges that year, of whom the Lord said: That iniquity came out from Babylon, from the ancient judges, that seemed to govern the people.
6 These men frequented the house of Joakim, and all that hand any matters of judgment came to them.
7 And when the people departed away at noon, Susanna went in, and walked in her husband's orchard.
8 And the old men saw her going in every day, and walking: and they were inflamed with lust towards her:
9 And they perverted their own mind, and turned away their eyes, that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments.
10 So they were both wounded with the love of her, yet they did not make known their grief one to the other.
11 For they were ashamed to declare to one another their lust, being desirous to have to do with her:
12 And they watched carefully every day to see her. And one said to the other:
13 Let us now go home, for it is dinner time. So going out, they departed one from another.
14 And turning back again, they came both to the same place: and asking one another the cause, they acknowledged their lust: and then they agreed together upon a time, when they might find her alone.
15 And it fell out, as they watched a fit day, she went in on a time, as yesterday and the day before, with two maids only, and was desirous to wash herself in the orchard: for it was hot weather.
16 And there was nobody there, but the two old men that had hid themselves, and were beholding her.
17 So she said to the maids: Bring me oil, and washing balls, and shut the doors of the orchard, that I may wash me.
18 And they did as she bade them: and they shut the doors of the orchard, and went out by a back door to fetch what she had commanded them, and they knew not that the elders were hid within.
19 Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders arose, and ran to her, and said:
20 Behold the doors of the orchard are shut, and nobody seeth us, and we are in love with thee: wherefore consent to us, and lie with us.
21 But if thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee, and therefore thou didst send away thy maids form thee.
22 Susanna sighed, and said: I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death to me: and if I do it not, I shall not escape your hands.
23 But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.
24 With that Susanna cried out with a loud voice: and the elders also cried out against her.
25 And one of them ran to the door of the orchard, and opened it.
26 So when the servants of the house heard the cry in the orchard, they rushed in by the back door, to see what was the matter.
27 But after the old men had spoken, the servants were greatly ashamed: for never had there been any such word said of Susanna. And on the next day,
28 When the people were come to Joakim, her husband, the two elders also came full of wicked device against Susanna, to put her to death.
29 And they said before the people: Send to Susanna, daughter of Helcias, the wife of Joakim. And presently they sent.
30 And she came with her parents, and children and all her kindred.
31 Now Susanna was exceeding delicate, and beautiful to behold.
32 But those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty.
33 Therefore her friends, and all her acquaintance wept.
34 But the two elders rising up in the midst of the people, laid their hands upon her head.
35 And she weeping, looked up to heaven, for her heart had confidence in the Lord.
36 And the elders said: As we walked in the orchard alone, this woman came in with two maids, and shut the doors of the orchard, ans sent away the maids from her.
37 Then a young man that was there hid came to her, and lay with her.
38 But we that were in a corner of the orchard, seeing this wickedness, ran up to them, and we saw them lie together.
39 And him indeed we could not take, because he was stronger than us, and opening the doors, he leaped out:
40 But having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us: of this thing we are witnesses.
41 The multitude believed them, as being the elders, and the judges of the people, and they condemned her to death.
42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said: O eternal God, who knowest hidden things, who knowest all things before they come to pass,
43 Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me: and behold I must die, whereas I have done none of these things, which these men have maliciously forged against me.
44 And the Lord heard her voice.
45 And when she was led to be put to death, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young boy, whose name was Daniel:
46 And he cried out with a loud voice: I am clear from the blood of this woman.
47 Then all the people turning themselves towards him, said: What meaneth this word that thou hast spoken?
48 But he standing in the midst of them, said: Are ye so foolish, ye children of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth, you have condemned a daughter of Israel?
49 Return to judgment, for they have borne false witness against her.
50 So all the people turned again in haste, and the old men said to him: Come, and sit thou down among us, and shew it us: seeing God hath given thee the honour of old age.
51 And Daniel said to the people: Separate these two far from one another, and I will examine them.
52 So when they were put asunder one from the other, he called one of them, and said to him: O thou that art grown old in evil days, now are thy sins come out, which thou hast committed before:
53 In judging unjust judgments, oppressing the innocent, and letting the guilty to go free, whereas the Lord saith: The innocent and the just thou shalt not kill.
54 Now then if thou sawest her, tell me under what tree thou sawest them conversing together: He said: Under a mastic tree.
55 And Daniel said: Well hast thou lied against thy own head: for behold the angel of God having received the sentence of him, shall cut thee in two.
56 And having put him aside, he commanded that the other should come, and he said to him: O thou seed of Chanaan, and not of Juda, beauty hath deceived tee, and lust hath perverted thy heart:
57 Thus did you do to the daughters of Israel, and they for fear conversed with you: but a daughter of Juda would not abide your wickedness.
58 Now, therefore, tell me, under what tree didst thou take them conversing together. And he answered: Under a holm tree.
59 And Daniel said to him: Well hast thou also lied against thy own head: for the angel of the Lord waiteth with a sword to cut thee in two, and to destroy you.
60 With that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and they blessed God, who saveth them that trust in him.
61 And they rose up against the two elders, (for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth) and they did to them as they had maliciously dealt against their neighbour,
62 To fulfil the law of Moses: and they put them to death, and innocent blood was saved in that day.
63 But Helcias, and his wife, praised God, for their daughter, Susanna, with Joakim, her husband, and all her kindred, because there was no dishonesty found in her.
64 And Daniel became great in the sight of the people from that day, and thence forward.

NOTE: Attribution for text used in the work "Enough is Enough" are from the article 7 Shockingly Sexist Laws in America That Can Be Used by Women Anytime  by Sarah Friedman.

1 comment: