Studies of Jahyne
by Tarah Douglas
Studies of Jahyne is an interdisciplinary exploration of the essence of femininity and its relationship to the female body through the means of garment making and photography. The point of departure for this project is derived from the name Jahyne (Jane, Jayne, Jane Doe) as it represents the muse; a name given to correlate one to gender or sex in the same way that femininity connects to the female body.
"I approach my work as research. The work I create helps me pose questions and serve as a means to think out loud; to put an image to a thought. Much of my work also aim to open dialogue surrounding identity and the human experience. For those that participate and interact with my work I hope that they find space to reflect and think out loud as well."
Dierra Bynum-Reid (2017)
Words by Dierra Bynum-Reid: "My first experience with defining femininity and discovering the kind of woman I wanted to be oddly came from the cartoons I watched as a child. My favorite Disney movie growing up was Hercules and the female lead, Meg, was the epitome of womanhood to me. She was strikingly gorgeous, witty, smart, fearless, and refused to be a damsel in distress. That was what I thought women should be at such an early age, not only because it identified with my characteristics, but because it was laid out in front of me in life. I was raised by a single mother who was strong and raised by a single mother who was strong and independent and my family was mostly made up of women just like her. /growing up, I learned how to be the keeper of my temple as well as the riving force of what made me a woman, despite social ideology.
In college, I picked up Classical Studies as a minor. In all of my classes, I always noted the disparities between the acceptance of expressing femininity versus masculinity. In ancient Greek societies, the male human form was an artistic canon, as well as a point of fascination, and nudity was seen as an assertion of pride throughout the ancient Aegean. One of the biggest focuses in art was portraying the male heroic nude, but, for the majority of the history of Ancient Greek art, the undressing of women was done in a way that reflected humiliation.
The lack of female nudity attests to the theory that women were subordinate to men due to the negative portrayals in art - such as scenes of Amazonomachy on structures like the Parthenon, where the fierce women warriors are shown fighting bare breasted while being overtaken by their male enemy. In addition to that, in most instances in art where women are being violated, they are often being stripped. This may have been strategically one to deter women from breaking conservative rules by threatening them with the possibility of violence. Nude portraits were also only created to depict women as divinity, such as Aphrodite Knidos, or as plebeians, with the many portrayals of prostitutes at symposiums and of bathing slaves.
Nudity in ancient Greece was used as a means of expressing a sense of control, power and audacity. These are all things that were associated with men in classical Athens while women were often seen as docile, submissive creatures. Arguably, these ideals still shape our views on whose nudity we can accept today. Female nudity is open to acceptance and even praised. These two discoveries in my life have gone hand-in-hand and have influenced my way of thinking about how to challenge the idiotic notions of what femininity is and how it can be expressed. To define it in my own words, I would say that femininity is the celebration of self-sufficiency for women and those of the femme experience. It is the ability to define yourself for yourself while everyone watches."
words by Lotushalves:
You cast a view
a view that places burdens
on my back but
I remain determined
to unlearn the decisions
you made for me
peeling targets off my skin
with hands like my mother's
no matter where i go
remind me to carry
whatever I wish
if i choose to.
Brittany Sherrod (2017)
Words by Brittany Sherrod: I can honestly say that my first experience with femininity - seeing what it looked like and saying to myself, "Yes, that is what women do!" - was watching my Mom get read to go out with her girlfriends. I enjoyed the expression that came along with it. She wanted the world to know her inside flow through her garb - and, of course, fabulous make up. It looked different than her getting ready for church, or to take us to Grandma's house. I was fun and creative. Colors, patterns, lipstick and all the shoes! I believe I define it the same now as I did when i was a kid, the creativity one puts into expressing how their feminine feels that day. I think that day I realized that natural beauty is a gift from God, but style is your own expression. And presently, now more than ever, I realize that God's beauty is a real gift not to be taken for granted. Beauty and style aren't up for judgements in my opinion, but for questioning. "Where did you get your inspiration?" We shouldn't all look the same anyways. And now that I'm older, I see feminine style influencing everyone, everywhere, at all times. Women have ultimate control over style, beauty, and outward expression.
I gender identify as female and was raised by females who didn't grow up in a time when they had the choice to express gender identity. You had to be a "lady" if you were born a lady. So crossing my legs at the ankle, modestly covered in the upper chest/bosom area, always smelling nice. I remember in my teens, right around when i discovered depression, I cared less and less about being presentable. I just wanted to live, express myself, but in a different way. So i got into grunge style in the 90's. An outer expression of the grunge I felt within. This was good to experience because i had to learn to love, or at least accept my own expressions of who i felt i was at the time, confidently.
Everyone can relate to femininity. I believe we have ultimate control over style and over livelihood. We are the most under-appreciated mammals on earth. We are the ultimate navigators of humanity. And I believe the reason we see hatred towards women is because insecure men can't handle this notion and are not okay with being next and not first.
I feel femininity in my mind both positively and negatively. Positively, it is the creativity and the love that comes from being a woman. The negative is the fear.
Chayna Douglas (2017)
Words by Chayna: I've always been feminine as long as I can remember. As a little girl, I've always known I was soft, bright, and capable of depth. Despite the clothing my mother chose for me until I was about two years old (stereotypically "masculine" clothing). I just knew I was woman - and that equates to femininity, right?
I had a strange dream that really had me re-evaluate that. My subconscious speaks to me in the limbo during dream realms. And I experienced a dream where my queer self was marrying this unknown, 18-year-old, Kenyan boy. It was our wedding day, and I was freaking out. We are getting MARRIED?
I panicked and felt my heart sink (gotta love the fear of commitment). I woke up and thought of this dream for days until I finally researched what it meant:
"To dream that you are planning a wedding to someone you have never met is a metaphor symbolizing the union of your feminine and masculine side. It represents a transitional phase where you are seeking some sort of balance between your aggressive and emotional side. The dream may also indicate that two previously conflicting aspects are merging together as one."
Extraordinary. Even though I am feminine and can represent it strongly, it doesn't mean I have to be this monolithic creature that has to choose emotion over logic, strength over weakness, hardness over softness. I can be my own combination of femininity.
Tarah Douglas is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice is primarily centered around photography, fiber works, and graphic explorations. Her work is conceptually motivated, grappling with notions of identity, race, gender, and class through the lens of mysticism, ritual, and performance. By extending beyond aesthetic purposes, these pieces speak about the phenomenon of existence—existing within a culture and existing without a culture, and acknowledging the impact of these cultures imposing themselves upon a subject. In this way, each of her works pose questions in hopes to open a dialogue around the subject matter.
on commodification: I think culture/media commodifies work that is easy to be swallowed i.e fashion, music. For many of the marginalized, I think there is more of an erasure of our work and experience in the art world. Whether it be through taking arts programs outside of our school, the lack of education surrounding artists of color, or the lack of mentioning that many successful artists stole and copied the “primitive” works from the marginalized. It can be extremely discouraging and isolating as an artist. So much of my work is based on my experience and when my experience is hard to find it makes me feel like my voice isn’t as valuable. These past few years, I have really had to work to learn more about artist of color and their practices to regain control of my voice and worth as an artist.
on marginalized voices: Much of my work is centered around people and highlighting what these people think and feel. As I mentioned, dialogue is extremely important in my practice; talking things out and through. I work hard to focus my series around those who may not often have a chance to speak and if they do putting them in unique situations where they have to be vulnerable, empathetic, and open.
neglected topics in marginalized communities: Self care and mental health; sexuality; dismantling toxic masculinity and establishing a new relationship between those who identify as men and women; intersectionality; reframing and reclaiming spirituality rooted in marginalized communities and outside of white supremacy.