May 5, 2018
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Mere Objects: All things gold! This shining collection of golden threads, ribbons, wires, and jewels comes from a woman whose experiences of violation span from her childhood years through college and an abusive marriage. 

She chose gold in reference to the Japanese practice of kintsugi, mending broken pottery with gold, in which the mended vessel becomes more valuable than it was before it was broken. 

In her letter, she includes one of her own poems, an exploration of brokenness and healing. One significant portion reads:

“The scars are beautiful, even awe inspiring.
Each mark shows my resilience and dedication to life. 
My endurance fills me with strength and character. 
The very act of restoration is a gift of love.”


May you find even the smallest of your broken pieces lovingly gathered and mended with purest gold, and may you come to know the resulting form as more precious and shining than you ever dared to imagine or hope.

Sarah JaneComment
May 1, 2018
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Mere Objects: delicate dried flowers from a bath bomb and the handwritten words “God, grant me peace.”

These objects were given to me several weeks ago by a young woman who asked me to share them on this date, which is the anniversary of her attack. 


May today be transformed for you into a day of divine presence, of healing and wholeness and the peace that passes all our human understanding. 


(This object was assembled in a workshop at Calvin College & the photo you’re seeing here was taken in the Center Art Gallery. I'll be re-photographing it in my home studio as soon as the artwork returns to me.)

Sarah JaneComment
April 20, 2018
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Mere Objects: river pebbles, a feather, and cedar leaves, reverently gathered by a woman who freed herself and her children from the abuser who terrorized their lives for years. 

She describes the profound trauma of living with constant manipulation and violence. But she goes on to speak of her own deep inner well of strength, wisdom, and groundedness, which carried her through the hardest times and ultimately led her and her children to freedom.

She chose river pebbles to honor her Indigenous heritage, which teaches that stones are our most ancient ancestors, remembering the wisdom of vast ages. The feather reminds her of the freedom of birds, and that she, too, can still fly. And the cedar is a mothering tree — both resilient and regenerative; designed to withstand the ravages of wildfire; sheltering both plants and animals within its reach. 


May the ancient rocks remember your fierce mothering and mighty renewal. May the irresistible song of your freedom be echoed back to you by the soaring birds, and the wild rushing waters, and the steady grace of spreading cedars.

Sarah JaneComment
April 16, 2018
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Mere Objects: a tiny knit scarf, carefully stitched through in gold, with extra gold thread piled on top. 

This tiny artwork was created by a woman who experienced about 5 years of childhood sexual abuse by multiple perpetrators — and who describes her life since as a fight against the “unending consequences” of trauma. 

Growing up in a conservative Christian community, she did eventually learn that her secret horror was called sexual abuse. But she also learned a moral code that emphasized “purity” above all else — leading her to conclude in middle school that the only solution to her supposed “impurity” would be to marry one of the abusers. 

Her path to healing has been long — marked by re-traumatizing attempts at reporting the abuse, and perfectionist striving to ward off any hint of pain or vulnerability. But today, after much grief and healing, she is able to write of herself and her future with deep gentleness and wisdom. 

She describes the rhythm of knitting as a meditative process, and the variegated blue yarn as symbolic of healing waters: tears, baptisms, and her own womb which recently carried her first child. The gold thread refers to Kintsukuroi, the Japanese tradition of mending with gold, which is a part of her own multicultural heritage. 

And finally, that extra bundle of gold thread anticipates future growth and healing — a “prophetic gift to self, a provision for my future.”


Beloved one, may that prophetic golden thread expand outward to the most unknown reaches of your soul, bringing forth wholeness and life far beyond what you could expect or even imagine. 


(This object was assembled in a workshop at Calvin College & the photo you’re seeing here was taken in the Center Art Gallery. I'll be re-photographing it in my home studio when this exhibition wraps up in a few weeks.)

Sarah JaneComment
April 12, 2018
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Mere Objects: Fragments of a Four Loko can and a shattered compact mirror - the broken remains of two gifts this young woman once received from her abuser and his girlfriend. She describes the act of breaking that mirror as a great weight lifted. 

She writes, "I don't know if I will ever be able to call myself a survivor. I'm not a victim anymore, but there is no word between the two that I know of. When I talk about the violence that was inflicted upon me, I am somebody who was raped twice." 

"… Living with trauma is complicated. The most encapsulating quote I have found to truly express my thoughts on it came from [Twitter user] @eboneedavis: 'I don't think the healing process ever ends. I just think there comes a time when you decide that your wounds aren't going to stop you from becoming the person you want to be. Self love is a lifelong journey & sometimes it's harder than others. You just have to commit.'"


My sister, my friend - may this lifelong journey of healing unfold before you with an abundance of rich and unexpected gifts, and may you discover within yourself the beautiful, whole, and beloved person you were always meant to be. 



(Sorry about the poor photo quality, folks! This object was assembled in a workshop at Calvin College & I wanted to add it into the exhibition right away. I'll be re-photographing it in my home studio when this exhibition wraps up in a few weeks.)

Sarah JaneComment
March 10, 2018
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Mere Objects: a set of old guitar strings.

These were accompanied by one of the shortest notes I've received so far: 

"My guitar teacher beat me, raped me, held me hostage. Not what I expected to learn."


May the bright, clear notes of healing and truth resonate powerfully in you.

Sarah JaneComment
January 31, 2018
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Mere Objects: a collection of items that represent healing from nearly a decade of sexual abuse by her oldest brother. Objects include a piece of his shirt, a sliver of tie-dye he made for her, a chain “for the trapped feeling,” red glass shards from a teardrop bead “for my tears then and now and blood from when I would cut myself,” an x-acto blade, her own hair, a sliver of paper from a work of art she created, and “an evergreen from Evergreen, my present and my future.” 

She writes eloquently about the loneliness of healing from a childhood marked by sexual abuse, which ended after her brother’s death when she was a teenager. She creates art to help cope with PTSD and to share her story. “I’m swimming towards the surface, but sometimes the stones from my past weigh me down. ...Mere Objects feels like a great big hug from strangers who get me.” 
 


May your creative and intuitive work continue to guide you to new depths of healing, hope, and wholeness.

Sarah JaneComment
January 19, 2018
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Mere Objects: mascara smudges, an applicator wand, and salt for tears, symbolizing a college student’s ruined makeup after she was assaulted by a family friend.

Hanging out at a bar with a friend, this young woman realized she knew the band that night — they had met for jam sessions at her house when she was a child. The lead singer recognized her, too — buying her a drink, and inviting her to a party afterwards.

Perhaps she found him attractive at first, but the evening quickly became terrifying as this much-older man ignored her demands to stop and forced her to perform sexual acts in his car in a parking lot. Afterwards, he begged her not to tell her father what had happened.

Today she says she is healing from the shame and trauma of that experience — and also training to work with others who have suffered trauma and abuse.

 

May you be freed from every smudge of misplaced shame, in order to fiercely pursue your calling in this world with clear eyes and a clean conscience.

Sarah JaneComment
December 18, 2017
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Mere Objects: shredded paper from a powerful chapbook of poetry written in response to multiple experiences of sexual abuse and assault. The poet says, “Writing has always been an outlet for me to deal with my feelings... being able to put everything onto paper and work with it through all of the tears has been a transformative process.”

She goes on to say, “I believe this is the most difficult piece I have ever written. But I am extremely proud of how I was able to tell my story.” 


May the strength of your words continue to call forth truth, healing, and transformation — in your own life and in the lives of those who read them.

Sarah JaneComment
December 13, 2017
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Mere Objects: burnt sage leaves from a cleansing ritual, chosen by a woman who describes being “abused, violated, stalked, and threatened” in the past.

She goes on to say, “I choose to cleanse myself of these past injuries. I have risen from the ashes of who I once was, and I am stronger than I ever knew... I pray that the pure, light-filled energies held in these dried leaves bless everyone involved in Mere Objects.”

 

May you continue to transform as you discover new strength and wisdom within yourself.

Sarah JaneComment
December 11, 2017
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Mere Objects: song lyrics, paper butterflies, the word RESILIENCE, and the suicide prevention hotline number. These were chosen by a woman who was sexually abused over many years as a child in foster care, and later experienced rape and assault as an adult.

She writes, “I’m far from being okay and where I want to be, but I’m trying to heal... My sister calls me Mariposa sometimes, which means ‘butterfly’ in Spanish... butterflies mean life and I’m alive after everything I’ve been through. They also mean change and metamorphosis... and endurance and most importantly hope.”

 

My friend, when I read your letter, I knew that your blessing had already been written. This message was among the notes of solidarity & support in the gallery last week: “Vuela mariposa extiende tus alas y nunca veas para atrus.” (“Fly, butterfly. Spread your wings and never look back.”)

Sarah JaneComment
December 6, 2017
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Mere Objects: a paintbrush “to show how paint got me through this” and a bit of dried-up black paint “to represent the darkness and confusion of what happened.”

This young artist writes not only of how her own life has been impacted by sexual violence, but also that of her sister and multiple friends. Of the power of art to express and transform that pain, she says, “A simple brush stroke can hold me together, show my pain, and display my confusion.”

 

May your courageous brush strokes and eloquent voice continue to bring forth healing, hope, and beauty — in your own life and in the lives of all you meet.

Sarah JaneComment