In a powerful series by artist and curator Rachel Graves, she interprets the catcalls and street harassment that’s thrown at her and her friends when in public places. Menagerie is a collection of self portraits that liken this lewd and unwanted treatment to the way that animals are prey.
“The project came about as a way for me to take control of what was happening and find a way to answer back and gain ownership over myself again,” Graves explained to The Huffington Post. “For me it was important to do more than simply dress up and paint my face to represent some of the names and insults being thrown at me. I didn’t want to just turn myself into the object that the harassers saw me as. I wanted to find a way to get my sense of self back, to be able to throw the words away and take back control.”
“Bird,” “fox,” and “bitch,” are all references to animals (and ones that women are called) that dehumanize people, and are all costumes that Graves wears. She paints ghoulish-looking makeup and fashions snouts that reflect the identity of what she is to her taunters. Afterwards, she washes herself of these oppressive masks.
“Being a woman in a public space can be a scary thing. Some men perceive women’s bodies as being public property, and act in ways that are intimidating and sexually aggressive. When I experience street harassment, my autonomy and control over my own body is taken away from me,” Graves says, again to The Huffington Post. “A similar thing can be seen in the industrialization of farming practices. Animals and women are objectified in similar ways: seen merely as pieces of meat for public consumption.”
By washing away the paint and taking off the noses, Graves regains her own identity. (via The Huffington Post)