Friday, July 24, 2009

Self-Portrait from a Past-Life (as a Soviet Bloc Whore)

Melissa Weimer, 2008 Self-Portrait form a Past-Life (as a Soviet Bloc Whore)

This photo shoot, in my grandmother’s mink coat, was a way of trying to express my sense of lose and sorrow over her death and also to demonstrate my strong feelings of connectedness to my past, and my family.
The resulting image is haunting. The girl in the picture barely looks like me. Does she look sad, serious, somber, or resigned? All four, perhaps. She possesses a stoic strength and an extreme vulnerability. I get a sense of survivalism and guarded pride. Hiding her true self in an effort to preserve it.
To me, she looks like a prostitute. A reluctant purveyor of the worlds' oldest profession.
In the shared history of women the world over, we know that most women, of the past (and many of the present), have been sexually exploited through human trafficking and sexual servitude. Today, as in the past, many women and girls working in prostitution and vice have been coerced into the lifestyle and held there under threat or through force. Those who escape that fate often find themselves forced into an arranged marriage against their will, and others are mothers forced to live with an abusive man in order to support and protect herself and/or her children.
Today the largest numbers of women facing the disgusting fate of human trafficking are from floundering countries that make up the old Soviet Union.
Once I saw the image I knew that she was me, but she was also another woman. One who stands in for past women. Women who wear their beauty and their body as a shield, a blanket, a life raft, a weapon and often times as a scarlet letter.
I believe strongly in reincarnation. It explains connections, memories and feeling, that I have, that are distant and unrelated to my current self.
Wearing the fur coat of my maternal grandmother makes me feel close to the past and its relation to my own personal history. While searching for a literal connection to this past, I happened upon a transcendent image and realized a connection to all women and their inherent female cross to bare - past, present and future.

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