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Contemporary artist Spencer Tunick is no stranger to mass public nudity.
Naked humans are the artist’s medium; he’s piled nude volunteers together by the hundreds, and even thousands, for installations all over the world. And yet there was something more poignant than usual about Tunick’s latest event—given its reflection, literally, on trends in conservative politics.
Near the site of the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, 100 naked women each stood holding a round mirror over her face on Sunday.
Tunick called the participants of #EverythingSheSaysMeansEverything “women art warriors” in a statement on the project’s website, saying they were “reflecting their anger through art against the hateful repressive rhetoric of many in the Republican Party towards women and minorities.”
Tunick said over 1,800 women volunteered to stand naked before Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and the other RNC convention attendees, but the number of participants had to be drastically cut due to space constraints. On the project’s website, many of the women gave anonymous testimony explaining why they were willing to go nude for the cause.
As a woman, I want to stand up for my reproductive rights. As a Hispanic, I want to be seen as a member of this community. As a first-generation American, I want to show that anyone deserves the opportunity to come here. As a young woman, I want to embrace my body and everyone else’s size and shape. As a human being, I want to stand up against Trump and other Republicans whose hateful speech towards women, immigrants, lgbt people, and all “others” is poisoning this nation.
Being a participant in Spencer’s installation allows women to be the medium, rather than the object. We are so often objectified in our society, being told our self worth is directly related to our appearance. The mirrors reflect the viewer and environment, a message of connection and statement of empowerment.
I’m a native Clevelander. I recently turned 50 and have been reflecting (no pun intended) on my life. I survived an abusive childhood, poverty, homelessness, and managed to achieve many of my life’s dreams. I had an abortion at 19 — it was legal and safe, a right that I see threatened by factions of politics and society. Despite having no children of my own, I’ve raised dozens of young women as their mentor, coach and, on occasion, their emergency bank for tuition and rent. I’ve transitioned from my maiden years through wise women, and stand at the cusp of my old crone-hood. I’m looking forward to this next part of my life.
On Twitter, some of the participants shared casual images from the set and expressed excitement about the project’s relevance.
Tunick had hinted at orchestrating a similar event in Philadelphia to coincide with the Democratic National Convention next weekend.
“I just didn’t have the on-the-ground contacts and help with organization as I did in Cleveland, so I had to pass on making an artwork for the DNC,” Tunick told the Philly Voice in a July 14 interview. “It would have been all men and the concept/idea was going to be different.”
Sadly, there will not be 100 naked men standing stock-still outside the DNC. At least, not on purpose.
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.