For more than four decades, my work has addressed issues of persecution and protection, focusing on oppression of the “other” through the lens of anti-bullying and social justice.
Becoming cognizant of the arc of this work came slowly to me, beginning a year after running for an entire day from the falling Twin Towers in the Ground Zero area of Manhattan. It was only after being “displaced” from my Tribeca home for almost a year after 9/11, that I came to reflect upon my recurring childhood nightmares of being chased by victimizers, and running for safety. (I later created a video, RUNNING, highlighting this flight from villains).
My abstract work after 9/11 became figurative, armor-like, and I realized that I was creating visual and visceral symbols of protection, androgynous sentinel-like figures to stand guard against the foe. I gradually incorporated a family of pop-culture and religious icons (Wonder Woman, Princess Mononoke, Lisbeth Salander, Lady Gaga, Storm and Nausicaa) that could start conversations about issues of power and vulnerability.
Gradually I was drawn to the Holocaust and then to global displacement in which factors of power and vulnerability led to genocide. I developed an artistic craving to start a dialogue with my viewer about what it takes to be a hero – an upstander rather than a bystander – on an everyday basis.
I dipped into my childhood experiences with Sexism and Masculinities/Femininities and played with unexpected gender permutations in Gender Scrambling. With my lectures, performances, videos, as well as HAWT‘s educational interactive website and national team of scholars, I find myself getting so excited when a viewer or participant has an epiphany which expands Protector behavior or empathy toward the Other.
This is what my work is about.
– Linda Stein, 2018