Far from the town of Monterey, California, across the places and spaces of the Midwest and the South of the United States, is a city called Lexington, Kentucky. It is a city not only filled with microbreweries, world-renowned horse farms, and top-notch basketball, but also incredible, local art. Last month, the Lexington Art League opened an art exhibition entitled “Currents: Horror Amour,” which explores how personal space is occupied throughout culture and history. Specifically, the theme is built upon the terms “Horror Vacui” which means fear of emptiness and “Amor Vacui,” meaning a love of emptiness. While the art show was just opening, March, and Women’s History Month, came to a close. One of the artists in the show and the art she created caused me to reflect upon Women’s History Month from a different perspective, showing me both the love and fear of space it has the power to create.
I was initially interested in this art show because it has given many local artists a space to exhibit their work, including my good friend Leah Crews Castleman. Leah makes interactive art, much of it inspired by Rube Goldberg. Her piece “Spacemaker: a tool for making space” features a bicycle wheel, paint brushes, and other recycled items that all work together in order to slowly erase paint from plexi glass. As I talked to Leah about her piece I also learned that in order to activate the contraption, someone has to turn a handle.
I asked Leah if her piece was about the fear of space or love of space and she told me that was the interesting thing about it – it can be both. She said that when the paintbrushes brush away paint from the plexi glass, it reveals a new beautiful piece of art. The plexi glass is then hung on the wall, and as more people use the machine, more plexi glass is pieced together. To her, this may represent a fear of space for some because it comes from a feeling that blank space, like a blank wall, must be covered completely.
Hearing her talk about her artwork made me question my own ideas toward space and how that relates to a month as important as Women’s History Month. Much of feminist work and women’s movements focus on reclaiming space and I think Women’s History month reiterates that notion. Women have traditionally been “painted over” in history and last month reminded us to always be willing to peel away layers of patriarchy in order to see a more transparent view of history- a history that allows equal space for women and their stories.
In this sense, I have a love for space. I want space and I want to create more of it, especially for people who have too often been oppressed and hidden in society, such as women. However, I have to admit, I also have a fear of space and I imagine others do too. This is because inevitably, when space is created, space is also taken away. The plexi glass and the blank wall in Leah’s exhibition is a perfect example of this: as plexi glass with new space is being created, they are being hung on a wall that takes away the blank space of the wall. Perhaps, even, the plexi glass will soon take over the wall, transforming it into something new and leaving only a faint memory of what lies behind it. As feminists, where are we creating new spaces and how does that affect spaces for others? Are we making sure that equal opportunity for space continues to exist for all, and not just the majority of women that tend to be represented in society?
It is because of this push and pull, creation and erasing of space that fields such as feminism and events such as Women’s History month are so important. They aim to ensure that space is equally accessible and visible for all. Thank you, Leah, for creating an art piece that allows us to expand our perspectives, and thank you, Lexington, Kentucky, for creating space for artists like Leah to transform our thoughts.
Caitlin Williams graduated from Georgetown College, KY with degrees in Spanish and History and minors in English and Women’s Studies. She is currently pursuing a Masters in TESOL with a Specialization in TFL at Monterey Institute of International Studies.