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Cleveland Artists Respond to #MeToo Movement

From a hashtag to a movement, #MeToo is generating conversations around the world.

It’s also inspiring artists here in Northeast Ohio.

Cleveland painter Laura Dumm decided to depict Venus, the goddess of love, as a #MeToo survivor. While she typically works collaboratively with her husband, Gary, on artwork critical of environmental and societal issues, it felt right to her to do this work independently.

In the painting, "A Prisoner No More," Venus appears to be emerging from a scallop shell, but she’s covered in handprint-shaped bruises and surrounded by pointed fingers.

“I hope that when [people] look at it they feel a little bit of pain, a little bit maybe of the women that have gone through this have felt,” Dumm said.

This bruised Venus depicts hope, too. A shackle has broken from her wrist and her arm bears the Fire Rose Tattoo, which was designed for Lady Gaga and the survivors of sexual assault who appeared with her on stage at the Oscars in 2016.  
While many people have shown solidarity recently with others who have experienced sexual assault by writing the hashtag, #MeToo, on social media, not everyone wants to share the details of those stories publicly.

“Writing that hashtag was actually pretty traumatic, it makes you feel vulnerable. But I wasn’t alone,” said Cleveland Heights artist Corrie Slawson.

The #MeToo movement inspired Slawson to be bolder as an artist in both expressing her views and creating work outside of her comfort zone. She’s doing both with her latest mixed-media project slated to go on view this spring at American Greeting’s gallery inside its headquarters at Crocker Park.

“I’m making 500 steaks by the end of this,” Slawson said. “It’s a pretty direct criticism of 45 th president.”

Corrie Slawson paints some of the steaks gold. [Carrie Wise\ideastream]

The steaks are in part a reference to the onetime product, Trump Steaks. Her project also focuses on objects, like beef, with high environmental impact. But her criticism of President Donald Trump is also rooted in allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

“This is how I feel I can directly call to task at least the fact that he’s still in office even though he’s had the same complaints lodged,” she said.

She also plans to revisit an ongoing project with fellow artist Elizabeth Emery, "Making Money the Harder Way," which calls attention to the gender pay gap.

“It’s starting to become a collection that’s paid attention to because it is relevant,” she said.

Megan Young works on a sign for "Longest Walk." [Carrie Wise/ideastream]

Cleveland artist Megan Young is also revisiting a prior work, "Longest Walk," that resonates in the #MeToo conversation.

“There wasn’t this hashtag when I started,” she said. “It was very surprising to see how the idea of solidarity and listening caught on.”

"Longest Walk" is part exhibition and part public performance. The latter looks like a choreographed protest, and women or female-identifying individuals carry signs they fill in with what’s important to them. The latest version heads to Ohio University this week, and #MeToo has had a positive influence in people wanting to participate.

“I just never realized how silent so many people were,” Young said. “Even myself, I always thought somebody else was doing that, and somebody else is- there’s lots of people who are doing it- but the need continues.”

Carrie Wise is the deputy editor of arts and culture at Ideastream Public Media.