Hold firm against this crashing wave, lording overhead. With the bone houses of my thoughts threatening to plummet down around me. I am taught to dig my heels into the sifting sand and remain in place so as not to anger him. So as not to disappoint him. I was born with purpose made and should I fail or deny, should I strive but find no fortune in my duty, I am wrong. A broken dish no longer fit to adorn the shelf; no choice is mine once I am crimson.
I am made what I am by cup and sheath and when he looks at me they are all he knows to see. Hold firm to the standards of my mothers, the ones placed upon by fathers. Smile always, cry prettily, beg forgiveness, internalise submission. My body is not my own, nor any body with purpose born is made. Upon first breath autonomy is placed in tomb. Duty left unfulfilled and I am cruel, a being of the abject and the uncanny. In this I am both isolated and united with my sisters and mothers. The violence our existence incites is forever justified in him.
Thou mays’t take of my life and suck the very marrow from the bones; break and grind them down to ash but I shalt not cry; not while I yearn to fulfil duty. I will smile as you bend me; twist me until I splinter. The vessel of my soul creaks and groans under torrent of expectation and I have mind enough to succumb. My wants and desires fall vacant and shallow to the needs and demands for chalice. A vessel for life awaiting the sewing of fields. I know the widow’s perch is where he wishes my days to find end, but in truth I was already buried in infant’s grave. To this existence I will hold firm.
In analysing the treatment of women as abject and uncanny beings, Donoghue-Stanford’s practice revolves around the analysis of womanhood and femininity as inherently Gothic on the basis of subjugation under patriarchal trauma. Horror and desire morph into beautiful obscurity and ugly clarity to utilise the Gothic as a catalyst to the reclamation of power and control over the self. Kristen Elizabeth Donoghue-Stanford is a Canadian artist currently residing in Caledon, ON. She is primarily a sculptor working in bronze casting, mould making, and embroidery and recently has broadened her mediums to film and written artworks. Her work currently researches by practice the Gothic and its relationship to societal views of femininity and womanhood. Influenced by feminist literature and Gothic fiction, and an abundance of horror films, she seeks to analyse womanhood and femininity as inherently Gothic and utilise it as a method to reclaiming agency and autonomy.