This is going to be the first vagina vérité exhibition event designed for conversation. That doesn’t sound right, I know. But—I have to say, that until now, conversation has been an add-on to the overall experience design of vagina vérité. This time: it’s the heart of it.


That has always been the point, I think—of making any art, but the gallery-museum m.o. of installing on a wall or in a cordoned-off space, set-aside-for-viewing three-dimensional work (which has been lodged in my thinking for as long as I can remember) separates the viewer from the art in a way that does more than protect the piece or give it room to be seen in the first place. At least that’s how it works on me, and I’ve been carrying it forward in my exhibition designs…as if there’s a right way—to view art. Going into the first in a series of conversation spaces, I’m thinking about viewing (probably for the first time): what does it mean to view?

An excerpt of the page from for “view”, showing the meanings for view when used as a verb with an object. The first 13 meanings where for the use of view as a noun. The list here begins at 14. #14 to see; watch: to view a movie. #15 to look at; survey; inspect: to view the construction of a road. #16 to contemplate mentally; consider: to view the repercussions of a decision.# 17 to regard in a particular light or as specified: She views every minor setback as a disaster. And #18 Fox Hunting. to sight (a fox).
Source: art?

Using the reference in the image above, I can see that I’ve been stopped at the first, most surface meaning. To see, watch: to view a movie.

Most times, when I view art, there is this undercurrent nudging me along. It feels like I’m supposed to check off my view, piece by piece, and keep going to the next piece, to the next room. And, while I have bitterly hated it when other people talking interfered with my art-viewing experience, so call me out on that for sure because I give the meanest looks when I can’t hear my thoughts because you are talking, it’s all changing out from under me. I’m giving up my quest for quiet in the crowded of my city so-I-can-hear-myself, and replacing it with an abiding interest in conversation spaces. It’s just not enough to take it in. Like a movie. There needs to be exchange among us. Especially when viewing vagina portraits.

We need to talk

We need to talk. Not just compare and critique. Conversation—The kind where we get involved with the work, and with the others in the room and the others not in the room (and the individuality of people in the room and not in the room) and with the history held in your body. And see what emerges. Stay in the room for it.

As I write this, I wonder if this is  sounding challenging. I don’t mean for it to be a hurdle to get over. There is no requirement to reveal anything that isn’t comfortable for you, or of interest to you. Though I would like to get some of the stuff we carry around in our bodies and memories out, where there’s room and heart enough for them to be seen and heard. And for us to talk about whatever comes up. It’s an opportunity to share your views and bodylife experiences, to listen to and witness others.

Sharing space and stories can be inspiring, healing and a relief, in short: empowering and counteracting to the often-gaslighting idea that there is a right way to be.

If you come, you will have a unique and personal response. Some of that will take place out loud—maybe you’ll ask a question, tell a story, or offer someone insight, some of it may happen through writing, that may or may not be read by others in the room—if you feel like adding to the wall or privately leaving a note for the next event’s attendees, and some of it will be internal and yours alone.

There are many ways to be in conversation in this space.

Listening to another woman can be transformational for the listener

As I’ve mentioned to some of you, I’ve started holding listening sessions, unstructured interviews. There is no list of questions or topics to make sure we cover. Just an introduction to vagina vérité and the Bodylife Library project, how each got started, and what they’re aiming toward. The conversation kind of flows on its own from there. Listening to another woman like this is life-changing. We are each of us so interesting and living lives of so much. So much. You cannot tell by looking what we have and have not shared. Here’s a wordcloud of what’s come up in the first few listening sessions—

A rectangular image of a jumble of words, in different sizes and colors based on their frequency of use in several conversations about women’s bodylives.
A wordcloud generated by several bodylife conversations.

They were one-to-one private conversations, an hour or less each, and most of them were with women I only recently met, or only met once. It’s a word cloud based on frequency. The most common word, by a lot, was “know”. I think that’s because there is so much that we each do know that we don’t get to share. Much of this is just below the surface, affecting our quality of life whether we get the support, community or conversation we need, and maybe don’t even know we that we need it, until the opportunity presents itself.

So, we’ll see.

An invitation to women

You’re invited to join us in this zone of safety and freedom where women can

  • View a photography exhibition of over 100 vagina portraits. No stylists, no details about the model, just the elusive faces of the vagina in plain view;
  • Participate in conversations women don’t usually get to have—across the immeasurably wide landscape of what it is to live a female bodylife.

This gathering is for women, and by that I mean to say that everyone who is biologically female and/or identifies as a woman is welcome and included.

It will be the first in a year-long series of vagina vérité conversation spaces. They will vary. Each will inform the next, and together, we’ll grow the space available to us, public and private space, for open exchange.

vagina vérité, An Art & Conversation Experience takes place on Saturday, 10/05/2019 from 2-4pm at Merge New York in Chinatown. It’s brought to you by Ganesh, a community of people who are fueled by kindness. Kim Thai, Ganesh founder, is co-hosting with me. Through the many conversations Kim and I have had since we met earlier this year, about what matters most to us, as well as during the several Ganesh events I’ve attended, I have known the kindness, and the peaceful inquiry, that Kim brings to the room. You should come. Here’s where you can RSVP.

Looking forward to hearing what you think!

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