Reflections by Joyous Windrider
I don’t think I will ever fully recover from my experience of childhood sexual abuse. That’s a hard insight to acknowledge but an important one. I have 30 years of recovery work under my belt, providing me enough insight and healing for mild success at being a contributing member of society. However, that same 30 years has also seen a simultaneous and subconscious perfecting of an internal protective system created to shut down authentic, vulnerable expressions of pain, leaving me isolated inside my own silence. Like someone who is dealing with a severe physical illness but looks and prefers to act fine, I spend a lot of energy acting like “it doesn’t hurt.” Just like so many other abuse survivors do and just like so many other important, relevant issues; it just seems so much easier NOT to talk about it.
I was fortunate to participate in a group exhibit last June at Lady Base Gallery, a fresh new artist space located in the Gallista complex on South Flores St. The owner Sarah Castillo had a vision to provide a platform for women and members of the LGBTQ community to bring forth the stories and issues that are relevant and important to them. When Lady Base first opened, the question was brought forth about whether or not a separate space was really necessary. The artists of the inaugural exhibit gave a unanimous Yes! Each one agreed that they would have presented different work had it been in a different space. Suzy Gonzales explained it this way, “There are things you say in your home and things you say to a stranger.”
For the group exhibition, I decided to focus on the ugly story that had been the backdrop of all my subsequent experiences but something happened in the creative process. As I worked towards an authentic and honest contribution to the conversation by speaking from my truth, I subconsciously made sure to cover up the very thing I wanted to say. When the pieces finally emerged, I knew what they revealed: The damaging effects of childhood sexual abuse on every one of my important relationship, including the one with myself. But what I managed to do was to fill every space with every other life experience BUT that one. In fact, the center of the piece entitled “People I’ve Lost: Myself” contained a blank spot labeled “Secret of Secrets,” which was my main statement; empty and vacuous. At the time of the show I comforted myself with the thought that it was at least a personal victory, even if a silent one. That experience was an important one for me because as I reflected on it during the following months, I realized that I had silenced my own story and my need to reintegrate this exiled part of myself back into community. This was clearly confirmed for me was when Sarah herself said, “Really? Was that what it was about? No, I didn’t know.”
I could blame myself but I know that clinging to silence comes from the reality of experience. I recently supported a friend through a painful jury trial where she had to present her horror story of abuse before a room of strangers. Every time she came out of the courtroom she wept at the humiliation and disrespect of a system that demanded she succumb to antagonistic scrutinization in order to prove that the event had really happened. It makes me think that there should be a sign above the courtroom entrance: “The right to be heard does not automatically include the right to be taken seriously.” I know some of what she felt. I endured a similar humiliating experience as a child in a courtroom with a painful story to tell. How many of us mourn that it requires such bravery to tell the truth?
This is why Lady Base is important to me. Lady Base is not a space or a person, but a community of people who are investing what they can to provide a platform where the imperfect but very real stories of an important segment of our populations will be heard and taken seriously. If you also believe this is important, then join the conversation.
Joyous Windrider will present a performance piece which explores the experience of remaining silent about childhood sexual abuse at Lady Base Gallery’s, Ten Minute Sessions on Saturday,Feb 22, 2014, at 1913 S. Flores St.
One night only, so join us from 5:00PM-6:00PM for a reception, followed by performances from 6:00 PM- 9:00 PM at Lady Base and Gallista Gallery, both located at 1913 S. Flores in San Antonio, Texas.
Parking available directly in front and in the back lot behind Gallista Gallery.
Lady Base Gallery
A site for the artistic practices of Women Artists and LBGTQ Artists.
Lady Base Gallery is an initiative supporting the creative practices of those interested in performance-based art and installation-based art and those artistic practices that cross disciplines.