objects in the mirror are closer than they appear :: first encounters with one’s own femininity


The interdisciplinary grant title called to mind the fact (or at least based on my unlimbered capacity and imaginings) that a female can only see herself, her physical sexual specificity, with some form of reflecting device. Gender understanding seems to be culturally constitutive and core to identity, more so than we would like to believe possible. This interdisciplinary performative reading project collaboratively explores the female’s first encounter with her own femininity. It is our intent to work fluidly between physical space (visual art/installation), textual/literary space (flash creative nonfiction readings/confessional poetry), and liminal space (theatrical direction, movement, aural exploration/interpretation) and body.

Imagine a cluster of women scattered in pairings, back-to-back, seated or standing, on oversized raw home furnishings built from domestic thresholds (doors and windows and frames) set outdoors in the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts’ new courtyard. It is evening and the sun has just set, silhouetting the four to seven pairs of distorted handcrafted chairs. A light rises on one pairing—a seated woman reading, and at her back, a second seated she-human artifact gesturally performing with a single slow ceaseless movement. The she-human artifact is functioning intertextually with her objectness and single repeated gesture melding at a conceptual juncture between body and text; firsts and femininity; and lived and distorted memories. The light dims as the reading and gesture begin again more quietly, softer in both sound and movement. A secondary pairing becomes the attentional focus as directed by an intensifying glow. An alternate reading and performative gesture are enacted. This continues through a series of four to seven texts, each pairing and gesture will be unique to its specific read text. At the end, with all lights dimmed, the readers exit their seating/standing position. Still reading as they walk, they navigate to empty (held) seats amidst the audience. The readers slowly lower their heads and voices in unison until they can no longer be heard but their lips remain moving with their text. Simultaneously, the she-human artifacts diminish their gestures and bow their heads as they still. The lights remain dimmed for a few moments. Silence. The lights come up only slightly to cue the end. Readers and she-human artifacts remain seated, heads bowed as the floor is opened for Q and A.


Female artists (or as text dictates), dancers, actors, musicians will be used for the She-human gesturing artifact. This woman will be color simplified and coordinated with her reading partner. Based on the text there will either be a simple bodily intervention and/or gesture developed and implemented. If relevant, the gesture may be aural. The team of lead artists will collaboratively develop the gestures and bodily interventions. The bodily interventions will be influenced by the body object relationship of the visual artist, Ann Hamilton’s Body Object series [images included] and artists working in a similar vein. The single gesture established from the text will be performed slowly and repetitively.

INSTALLATION of paired domestic furnishings

will be built from deconstructed doors, windows and their frames. See image samples. Each pairing will be matching but vary in scale—one oversized, one undersized, but differ from text to text. The lead artists will collaboratively design the furnishings/set designs. The lead visual artist will fabricate these with assistance from other students. Materials, where possible, will be harvested from the Lubbock domestic waste stream. The installation will be installed in the LHUCA courtyard. It will be on view prior to the performance during the April 2016 First Friday Art Trail. Participating artists will disseminate postcards promoting the performative reading.


The texts of flash* nonfiction or confessional poetry will be
secured through a juried open call. These will be new writings developed specifically for Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear: first encounters with one’s own femininity. Dr. Katie Cortese, the juror, will select four to seven works from the open call. Female PhD students, from TTU’s Creative Writing and the Theater programs, will be recruited as the readers. Male readers will be used if it is relevant to one of the selected texts. The costuming will be minimal in detail. The color will be established by the text. As is artistic habit, there is a high probability for either an all flat black or white palette in costuming, despite an inclination for Barbie Pink.

* Flash = 750 words or less

CHAP [maybe – dependent on funding] BOOKS

A short run (40) of chapbooks will be created post-performance. The lead artists will coordinate with the TTU Letterpress Studio faculty for the printing the books. Design will be lead by Kathy Kelley. Participating literary, performative and documentary artists, as well as participating faculty, will each receive a copy.

DOCUMENTATION Performance will be digitallydocumented.


LHUCA campus outdoor courtyard situated between the Main, Clay and Grafitti buildings. A list serve serving a professional community of 10,971 writers will be the primary vehicle/web site to promote the open literary call for original texts, as recommended by TTU Creative Writing Faculty. Additionally the call will be posted on Glasstire.com and other local art sites. https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/crwropps-b/info


April 2016. The performance will be coordinated to occur along with the TTU Women’s Conference. The installation for the performance will be pre-installed so that it is on exhibit for April’s First Friday Art Trail with signage and participating artists promoting the mid-April reading/performance date via post cards.


TTU’s CVPA and literary community, Women’s Conference attendees, and local community. The structural portion of the installation, the set, will be up for April’s First Friday Art Trail and thus will reach a broad audience of art visitors.


Meg Davis, PhD Student, Fine Art Acting/Directing + Arts Administration

For the purposes of this project, I will contribute my knowledge and skills as playwright, director, and acting coach in addition to the skills and theories I have studied in my interdisciplinary courses, specifically feminist studies. Any practical production experience is an invaluable part of theatrical scholarship, and this specific project will provide experiential context for feminist theatre practices and an opportunity to learn about the process of integrating feminism, a long-time personal scholarly interest, into tangible art. I will be collaborating with Kathy Kelley by developing feminist form in the actresses we work with, piecing together tableaus that elicit feminist utopias or dystopias to demonstrate modern testimonial renderings of interactions with the feminine, with womanhood, and with the embodied feminine self. Additionally, we will work through more practical production issues, such as the orchestration of lighting and sound, casting, rehearsal structures or calendars, rehearsal and performance space coordination, etc.

As an Acting/Directing and Arts Administration student, I hope to use this experience as an education opportunity regarding marketing and space coordination. I hope to gear my dissertation towards a comparison of theatre organizations, specifically those that operate in historically underserved communities. My goal is to accomplish this comparison by serving in internship capacities at one theatre in any underserved community outside the state of Louisiana and compare that with internship experiences at a theatre of similar outreach goals in the greater New Orleans area. Any experience working in an unfamiliar space with a devised process will be of huge benefit to my studies by preparing me for operating with budgetary constraint, complexities of assembling theatrical functions outside of the university setting, multifaceted production service (lighting, marketing, development coordination, directing, actor training, and application of interdisciplinary theory), and interpersonal coordination. Again, there is no substitute for practical experience or for interpersonal and interdisciplinary collaboration in meaning-making, and I would be grateful for the support that would make this collaboration possible.

Kathy Kelley, PhD Student, Fine Art Critical Studies and Artistic Practice

Embedded in gender-linked study, skimming historically seminal texts on language, gender, politeness and power, plus subsequent studies, I am straddling domains while dipping my toes into linguistics, discursive, psychometrics, socio-psychologic, and feminist ideologies. Needless to say, I have fallen into this pool, lapping with a plethora of theories. I am drowning, but am not that interested in coming up for air.

Late fall 2014, I ran 74 female and 86 male visual artist essays through two separate computer-assisted language analysis programs. I was also introducing myself to gender language theorist, Robin Lakoff and Deborah Tannen. Though I don’t yet know statistics (enrolled for this fall), as an artist I am used to hunting for patterns and anomalies. And in the analysis of the first run of texts, both exist. Compared to the general public normatives, the female artists more generally adhere to Robin Lakoff’s noted male-linked language habits. Yet, compared to the normatives of DICTION7 [drawn from presidents, politicians and journalists for the last 50 years = predominately male] the artists’ gender differences roughly correlate with the male/female disparity introduced by Lakoff. I can easily conclude (with theorists) that gender-linked language is contextual. Gender-linked language is not my primary dissertation direction, yet gender cannot be ignored as a variable.

I am enjoying the heck out of this research immersion. So with my head swimming with gender-linked notions, all I could do was laugh at the female implications of the grant theme—Objects in the Mirror are Closer Than They Appear. I codified my scatological humor with an addendum to the theme—First Encounters with One’s Own Femininity. From there, I envisioned how I might meld my research and need to occasionally dry off standing with both feet on my artistic ground.

The interdisciplinary parameters fit smoothly with yearnings I have had toward combining text, installation and movement. I have collaborated before with visual artists, this would break new ground in the arena of movement and performativity.  Meg Davis from our VPA cohort group, seemed a perfect fit. So we’ve joined to beginning fleshing out the initial vision and moving it toward realization. I am grateful for someone knowledgeable in movement, direction and who has had actual courses in gender theory. We are mutually excited about where this project might lead and how it will inform each of our practices.

I also initiated with Dr. Cortese and Dr. Snead of the English department. Both are excited to collaborate on this project—Cortese as literary juror for texts and Snead with gender ideology and letterpress chapbooks. I have also met with our awesome faculty mentor, Dr. Mariani, for project review and perspective. When I sat down across from her, it was then that I realized I hadn’t considered the aural. Her very presences introduced the potential of a musical gesture.

Along with coordinating with our faculty, I see my role as mutual collaborator with Meg to envision installation, body interventions and gestural components and then taking the lead with fabrication and site specifications.


MAY 2015

Develop text for literary open call

Review text with juror, Dr. Katie Cortese

JUNE 1– SEPT 15, 2015


Submit/Send open call to online services; email call to selective individuals

Coordinate with Tricia Earl (patricia.a.earl@ttu.edu) of Women’s Studies for promotion at Conference 

Coordinate with Linda Cullum to finalize dates for LHUCA courtyard

Submit material for event calendars—English Department Reading Series, Women’s Conference, CVPA, Theater Department, Art Department, and local community

OCT 15, 2015

Jury submissions. Select works. If > 200, lead artists preread will screen submissions to assist juror

Send out notices of selection

Live and breathe each text, allowing them to lead gestural and spatial considerations

Recruit readers and object/person performers

Recruit videographer and two photographers

Disseminate texts to readers, performers, and documenters

Coordinate with Letterpress Lab faculty to get on their spring course syllabus

NOV 2015

Introduce group to big picture/goals/imaginings 

Unpack texts with readers and performers and documenters; impromptu rehearsals

Collaborative reader/performer team experimentation with first impressions of text

Work out two-person team for each text – reader and performer

Two coordinating together—reread and explore gesture and possible metaphorical (sideways thinking) artifact/relationship to body

Each pairing presents their tentative reading gesture

Group digests, brainstorms and provides feedback


Lead artists adapt plans for specific gestural and object/person artifact manifestation for each text from initial full team experimentation 

Confirm/reminders for publishing event calendars. Add artists’ names to literature

Define and reserve lighting equipment

Reserve seating/chairs from LUCHA

JAN – FEB 2016

Build/fabricate necessary artifacts

Design promotional postcards 

Build initial web presence



Beginning working out visual content for chapbooks

Print promotional cards

MARCH 2016

Installation of structural portions 

On-site rehearsals

Design sandwich board announcing performance for April First Friday Art Trail

Resolve lighting

Continue visual content for chapbooks

APRIL 2016

Readers and performances and artists attend First Friday Art Trail

On-site rehearsals

Reading/Performance Event

Collect any outstanding purchase receipts

Begin grant follow-up paperwork

MAY 2016

Finalize and work letterpress lab on chapbooks

Disseminate chapbooks

Send out thank you notes—faculty, LHUCA, press, participating artists/documenters, etc

Submit grant follow-up paperwork

JUNE 2016

Refine/redesign web presence based on chapbook

Disseminate link to participating artists and faculty

Or view/download as PDF (below)


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