By Kineen Dillard
Point Park News Service
On first view, there is a face of a young girl in a black and white composite photo, but on closer, inspection, one realizes there are fifty faces. Covering the faces are the names of each girl and the age they were when they took their own lives.
“I took all the portraits of all the girls whose names are present and combined them together to make that one female in the background,” Artist Traci Molloy said.
That haunted and painful image in the exhibit “Bullycide Girls,” is just one of the conscious pieces in The Mean Girls exhibit, a traveling show bent on raising awareness on the growing epidemic of bullying with young girls which opens Feb. 22, at the Space Gallery on 812 Liberty Ave.
“I often use art and exhibitions as a tool for social causes,” Jill Larson, curator of this exhibit said during a phone interview.
Larson, who’s curated over 50 exhibitions, drew from her personal experiences to create this show. She remembered how devastated she was the time she was voted out of a club she created once it gained popularity. She also remembered how her two sons encountered bullying.
“It made me think about how women treat women and girls treat girls. I think to some level mothers don’t exactly know how to deal with their children being bullied,” Larson said.
Larson picked 10 artists whose previous work conveyed a string of female issues. The pieces in the show range from paintings like Sonja Swerterltsch’s, “We Are Not You,” showing women in a strong stance looking off. Drawings like Andrea Sherrill Evans’, “Siblings #1,” which has the same figures pressing their heads against each other. There are also sculptures and video projections.
There are four local artists in the show. Molloy is one of the six artists out of town.
“Jill first approached me and said she wanted to put together a show,” Molloy said in a phone interview. “I said, ‘Oh my god Jill. That’s like my dream show.’”
Molloy, a Brooklyn-based artist and social activist, explores the violence in adolescent culture.
Two of Molloy’s pieces are featured in the exhibit. She chose to feature 50 girls under the age of 18.
The idea for her piece stemmed from a piece she worked on years prior. While working on her kids that killed kids commemorative stamps, a piece where she wanted to show how America celebrates violence, she began combining the images of kids who killed other kids.
“I wanted to see what a generic killer looked like – that eventually led me to do a very large piece on that which was a portrait of a killer then the pictures of the victims,” Molloy said.
Her second composite piece consists of young boy victims. Molloy feels that the bullying happening with boys is just as important.
“This notion that boys are displaying female traits, I find to be very tied into the theme.” Molloy said. “The fact that they’re displaying female tendencies and they’re bullied for it is really intense.”
Molloy was also teaching at Rutgers University when former student Tyler Clementi committed suicide in 2010 after being cyber bullied due to his roommate recording him having sex on his webcam. Though Molloy didn’t know Clementi personally, that situation prompted her to deal with more work in bullying violence.
“The pieces I put together for the show really sort of echo my experiences post Tyler Clementi,” Molloy said.
Another artist featured is Pittsburgh artist Vanessa German who was named emerging artist of the year in 2012. She has three installation sculptures featured in the show. She creates environments that the sculptures live in naming them “The Holy Mother” sculptures.
A few months back, German experienced an exhibit at the American Visionary Arts Museum that would later inspire her. Doing a press walk for an exhibition called Post Secret, the man in charge of the exhibition shared some of the secrets.
“One of the things that was in the exhibition was a postcard that somebody sent in that said, ‘Tommy bullied me all last year in high school, and he died last week and I didn’t get a chance to forgive him,’” German said recounting the letter.
German was moved on how the boy, who was bullied, mourned over how he didn’t get the chance to forgive the person who did it. This made her start to think of how bulling is on the other side. She thought about how it would be once the self-proclaimed “mean girls” grew out of their ways and how they would feel once they looked back on how they were and what they did.
“I wanted to create peace sculptures that could be a conduit to that transformation that happens inside of a person,” German said.
German created her sculptures to be active. They will have egg shell powders where people can either step on them or sprinkle them on the ground. They serve as a ritual of transformation.
German also says it’s a ritual of healing and forgiveness.
The show also wants to encourage community engagement among the group to get different views on bullying.
“At times women and girls are both the victim and the bully, and sometimes it’s easier for us to associate with one or the other,” Larson said.
Through the past few years, through many organizations, bullying awareness has been raised, but is it enough to stop it?
“I’m not sure it could ever stop. I think human nature dictates that people try to dominate,” Molloy said. “To help maybe make it better is dialogue. We need to have conversation.”
Pittsburgh is just the first stop for “Mean Girls,” and the exhibit will run until April 28. Admission for this exhibit is free.