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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Mary Coble

Washington,
USA

Born in North Carolina, Mary Coble now lives and works in Washington, DC. Aside from working as a full time artist, Mary teaches Photography and Performance Art at several Universities and youth organizations.

Feminist Artist Statement

The seriousness of intolerance that I see in our society is one of the driving forces that leads me to create work. I want to challenge people to re-evaluate overly simplified and narrow understandings of a much more expansive reality. As a lesbian I do not always fit into the ideal standards that our society has set for women. I am conscious of the constrictions that people may struggle against. The dichotomies that our society follow, such as feminine/masculine and beautiful/ugly are too narrow and restrict the myriad of experiences that makes up personal expression. Through photographs, video and performances I introduce viewers to individuals and subcultures, such as transgender people, drag kings and the queer community who break societal norms of acceptable expressions. I want viewers to become aware of their responses, recognize the stereotypes they consciously and unconsciously reinforce, and question the biases their choices are based upon. I often use my body as a metaphor and site for questions that involve, as well as move beyond, corporeal matters. These performances establish a sense of vulnerability but also power that is important for the emotional state of mind that I strive to maintain throughout the piece. I do not accept the roles, boundaries and decisions that our culture and society has strategically planned for my community. I strive to confront conventional social constructs that are malleable and will continue to change. I want people to be forced to critically consider their reactions and interactions with social injustices. I have the freedom to explore this territory in part due to the women before who have fought to be recognized. I make art that challenges directives because I look at art by women who do the same and it excites me. It makes me feel strong and I’m honored to be a part of such a community of people who stand up.

<p>Untitled 1 (from Note to Self)</p>

Untitled 1 (from Note to Self)

“Note to Self” was a twelve hour performance where the names of 438 gay, lesbian, bi and transgender individuals who were murdered due to hate crimes, were tattooed onto the artist’s body using no ink.

Untitled 1 (from Note to Self)

“Note to Self” was a twelve hour performance where the names of 438 gay, lesbian, bi and transgender individuals who were murdered due to hate crimes, were tattooed onto the artist’s body using no ink.

Untitled 3 (from Note to Self)

“Note to Self” was a twelve hour performance where the names of 438 gay, lesbian, bi and transgender individuals who were murdered due to hate crimes, were tattooed onto the artist’s body using no ink.

Binding Ritual, Daily Routine

Binding Ritual, Daily Routine was a live performance that took place at Artists Space in New York City, New York in 2005 as part of “Performa ’05”. In this performance piece the artist repeatedly taped and untaped her breast with duct-tape for over ninety minutes. This piece speaks to the emotional and physical pain that many transgender people may feel on a daily basis. For Female to Male transgender individuals, who may bind daily, want to be perceived as having no breast at all. To bind that tightly can be not only extremely physically painful but can be mentally trying as well. The artist wanted to create a physical manifestation of the mental space where she imagines transgender individuals silently suffer, while shortening a lifetime into a few hours.

Aversion

Aversion was a live performance piece performance that took place at Conner Contemporary Art in Washington, DC in 2007. In this performance piece the artist attached electrodes to her arm and had herself shocked, with an electric shock device, to recreate the severe effects of electric shock aversion therapy that was once commonly used to “cure” homosexuality. Patients were subjected to repeated sessions during which they were shown a series of erotic images. Where as opposite-sex images elicited no negative stimulation, shock was administered in conjunction with same-sex images. The performance lasted thirty minutes, which was the length of an actual shock therapy session. The artist wanted to not only call attention to a practice that many did not even know existed. The piece also points to continued social pressures towards conformity, which perpetuates the advocacy of reorientation therapy for homosexuals by extremist organizations today.

Sessions

“Aversion” was a live performance piece performance that took place at Conner Contemporary Art in Washington, DC in 2007. In this performance piece the artist attached electrodes to her arm and had herself shocked, with an electric shock device, to recreate the severe effects of electric shock aversion therapy that was once commonly used to “cure” homosexuality.

This image is a still from a video “Sessions”. “Sessions” shows a hand being twisted and formed from the force of an electro shock therapy session.

Blood Script

Blood Script was a live performance piece that took place at the PULSE Art Fair at Pier 40 in New York City, New York in 2008. The artist meticulously documented inscriptions from three previous Marker (DC, NYC and Madrid) Performances and compiled a list of over 200 hateful words and phrases written on me, by viewers, in various languages. For Blood Script, the artist had 75 of the most common words tattooed onto her skin, without ink, in a very ornate script. Using decorative letters, she created a dichotomy between the beautiful visual form of the words and the ugly meanings they convey semantically. Contact prints were made of each word by immediately pressing watercolor paper against the fresh incisions. The mirror image of the word was imprinted on the paper in blood. The elaborate script initially engages viewers in the optical challenge of identifying each tattooed insult. The recognition of each word stimulates viewers to reflect upon the significance of what the insult means to them. This dynamic process mediates a silent dialogue between the artist and the audience as the performance progresses.

Blood Script

Blood Script was a live performance piece that took place at the PULSE Art Fair at Pier 40 in New York City, New York in 2008. The artist meticulously documented inscriptions from three previous Marker (DC, NYC and Madrid) Performances and compiled a list of over 200 hateful words and phrases written on me, by viewers, in various languages. For Blood Script, the artist had 75 of the most common words tattooed onto her skin, without ink, in a very ornate script. Using decorative letters, she created a dichotomy between the beautiful visual form of the words and the ugly meanings they convey semantically. Contact prints were made of each word by immediately pressing watercolor paper against the fresh incisions. The mirror image of the word was imprinted on the paper in blood. The elaborate script initially engages viewers in the optical challenge of identifying each tattooed insult. The recognition of each word stimulates viewers to reflect upon the significance of what the insult means to them. This dynamic process mediates a silent dialogue between the artist and the audience as the performance progresses.

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