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Anna Hitchcock

Let Go!, 2018, Basswood with oil paint and linseed oil stain, Courtesy of the Artist.

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In revisiting this sculpture, I have been thinking a lot about the implications of how our society relies so heavily on individual trauma to catalyze social change.

“Let Go!”, relies on figurative visual language to engage its viewers’ attention and empathy and requires significant physical and emotional vulnerability from me every time it is shown. Almost four years after creating this work, I can see that the depth of vulnerability it required was not what I needed at the time, so soon after the traumatic event. I was asking myself too quickly, to utilize my trauma to push for social change, instead of focusing on healing.

I stand by this sculpture, the power of its vulnerability to ignite empathy and discussion, and the accuracy of its representation of my mental state at the time. However, consideration of the experience of public vulnerability has driven my recent transition towards abstract visual language, which I use to defend myself from emotional and physical voyeurism while addressing the topic of sexual assault and to comment on how the public gaze often co-opts trauma for its own purposes.

My thoughts on this piece will always be reforming and shifting. But I do know that we need to allow survivors to taking as much time as needed to process trauma and come forward with their story, if that’s what they want. We also need to question how the moral advancement of our society depends so often on the spectacle of individual trauma, and what we can do to avoid flattening those individuals, and their stories, in the process of using them to promote social progress.