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Mercedes Huse

Somewhere Else
Bronze, ceramic
9″ x 8″ x 5″

Billie
Ceramic
18″ x 10″ x 6″

Happiness
Ceramic
11″ x 8″ x 11″

Offering
Ceramic
20″ x 9″ x 15″

Blessing
Ceramic
9″ x 10″ x 6″

Unbroken
Ceramic
16″ x 19″ x 9″

Cyst
Wood, textiles
4’8″ x 3’6″ x 4′

Photographs by the artist

For many who have experienced sexual assault, nakedness is no longer just embarrassing or shameful—it’s expository on an existential level. It is common for survivors to feel a loss of ownership over their own bodies, and most adopt disassociation as a coping mechanism. 

Representations of the female form tend to be heavily influenced by the male gaze, both in contemporary media and throughout art history. These depictions are objectifying and hyper-eroticized, catering specifically to a heterosexual male audience. This inescapable cultural malady exacerbates survivors’ PTSD and further drives a wedge between women and their relationships with their own bodies.

This series is my effort to re-appropriate the female form. My sculptures do not exist as voyeuristic objects of the male gaze, but as pillars of strength and resilience. They are confident and unashamed, holding their heads and shoulders up high.

Women’s healthcare has also been damaged by the ignorant actions of those who hold power in a patriarchal system. I created Cyst to draw attention to women’s healthcare as a pressing human rights issue in the USA. We have a higher maternal mortality rate than any other developed country. Women are constantly told by doctors that they are “imagining” their symptoms. We are misdiagnosed and put on birth control to mitigate symptoms because our doctors simply will not look into what is really going wrong in our bodies.

Cyst is inspired by the story of a woman who spent years going to doctors, complaining of stomach pain and rapid weight gain. Several doctors told her these were normal symptoms of weight gain, and that she needed to diet and exercise to lose weight. Finally, an ultrasound revealed a 40 plus pound ovarian cyst inside her, which had crushed some of her internal organs.

I was also inspired by dermoid cysts, which are ovarian cysts in which egg cells spontaneously combust into people parts. They often contain hair, teeth, skin, and nails; sometimes they hold fully formed organs.

All the materials used in Cyst are in their second stage of life, gathered from yard sales and secondhand shops. I used every skin tone of fabric I could find, because I want my feminism to be intersectional. I also used traditional “women’s” construction methods, such as quilting and embroidery.