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Zoe Mendez

Video and sculpture

I make work in sculpture, performance and video. I am interested in making connections between primitive human behaviors and female identity. My personal history manifests itself in my work through the representation of my upbringing and influences in North Idaho

The expectation of womanhood is oftentimes complex and contradictory. I have invested time in considering how these demands impact my life as a woman from North Idaho. The mountains of the region are inhabited with generations of strong independent women. In the culture of North Idaho standards are held for women to be independent, tough and self-sufficient while also maintaining the pressure of beauty standards and purity culture.

In purity culture gender expectations are strict and stereotypical. Sexual expectations may vary between gender but all are expected to remain abstinent before marriage. Women especially are expected to also keep their thoughts, feelings and experiences, sexual or otherwise, “pure”. Women are seen as non-sexual creatures except for the purpose of procreation.

Roe v. Wade was passed on January 22nd 1973. This court case gave women the right to choose. Through my life I have watched as the right to my bodily autonomy has been “hunted”. As a young woman I witnessed many attempts to overturn Roe v. Wade. I watched as women’s health clinics were getting defunded and protesters threw anti-choice pamphlets, while yelling sexist slurs as I walked into my high school.

Coeur d’Alene is a French word that translates to heart of an awl. An awl is a sharp tool used to poke holes into a hide before it is stretched. This name was given to the region from French Fur trappers that moved there in the 18th century due to the abundance of fur trade. Coeur d’Alene is known for its deeply rooted cultural influences such as Catholic Traditionalism, radical far right politics and its history and affiliation with the Aryan Nation. This influenced me greatly as I went through my own journey in defining womanhood for myself.

The performance Trophy Hunt creates a visual representation of what you would do to prepare a hide for use. The video includes three performative acts Bleaching, Washing and Stretching. The tanning process begins with treating the hide to get rid of any impurities. The bleaching of the red cloth references this action while also calling attention to the stereotypical promiscuous symbolism of women wearing red. The tanning process continues with the washing of the hide. I perform with the hide while washing in the bathtub to represent the connection between the hide and my body. Referring to the ownership over my bodily autonomy. The tanning process ends with stretching the hide over a frame and laying it out to dry. The viewer sees the hide in the video, as well as in the installation stretched out as if it were a trophy. When the stretching process is over the hide is tanned, beautiful and ready for use.