Throughout human history and across cultures, the hair of loved ones has been saved for memorial, ritual and spiritual purposes. Steeped in mythology and a verifiable biological parameter, hair is a physical print of the individual that is its source. Paradoxical, when attached to the head hair serves as a major signifier of identity yet when detached it transforms into something vile, repulsive; a mere trace of someone’s presence or evidence of a crime. In my work, hair serves as a catalyst for breaking the silence that suffocates those who have suffered the traumas of sexual assault, child sexual abuse or domestic violence.
In reckoning with trauma, one experiences a multi-layered emotional process with no clear center or end. The remembering necessary to transmute the injury can be excruciating. Producing the work and materials involved in the installation mirror the side effects one experiences in the wake of trauma and on the path to recovery. In this context, the dissociation, repetition, masking and layering serve a transformative role. The work retains a hope for humanity and a belief that every person deserves to be free in their own skin, able to speak their truth free of shame, guilt and stigma. Gather offers an ethereal, nurturing space that is conducive to reflection.
The work brings together a collection of women’s voices from Argentina and the US, establishing an anonymous cultural record of brave and generous individuals who were willing to share their stories and their hair to aid this project and to work to end child sexual abuse and sexual assault.
The project was launched in 2014 as Hairstory-Herstory during my artist residency at Proyecto 'ace in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was held under the auspices of Subgerencia Operativa Asuntos Culturales (Cultural Affairs Council) of Buenos Aires, Ministerio de Cultura (Ministry of Culture) and Gobierno de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Autonomous City of Buenos Aires Government) and through partnerships with Centre Arminda Aberastury, Buenos Aires, The Women’s and Children’s Alliance, Boise, USA and Idaho poet, Mary Ellen McMurtrie. The Idaho Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts have lent their support to this project.
Jill AnnieMargaret is an artist based in Boise, Idaho, USA. Weaving a collection of women’s stories and hair, her current work creates a forensic and cultural record that aims to facilitate healing, inspire courage and end human rights abuses against women globally. Her work has been exhibited in Argentina, Japan, Italy, Finland, Portugal, India, South Korea and many locations across the United States. Professor of Art at Boise State University, she has directed the Printmaking program there since 2005. Special Note: On January 6, 2015 Jill changed her legal name from Jill Ingram Fitterer to Jill AnnieMargaret. Her new name honors four generations of women on the maternal side of her family.