Top Twenty Blog (2000-2020)

#19 | “Sticks and Stones: Heart Excavation” , The Eastern Plains Women’s Resource Center of Byers, Colorado, 2013

As an unofficial residency with The Eastern Plains Women’s Resource Center, there were four phases of the project and collaborative process over a course of a semester. 1) Research and participation in services provided by EPWRC . 2) Conducting field interviews with women of Adams and Arapahoe counties and collecting objects identified by the women for installation. 3) Installing photographic and object artifacts at the EPWRC and hosting an event open to the public to interact with the work 4) Bringing a portion of the project back into the gallery space.

Statement presented at the Eastern Plains Women’s Center event opening:

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” were the words we guarded ourselves with on school playgrounds and slumber parties. As we grew older, we quietly realized that words were as physical as fists. 

Before I even knew about “sticks and stones”, I was sexually abused. I didn’t understand what was happening but sensed that it was secret and shameful. I was keenly aware of the power of words to both expose how dirty I was and to destroy harmony. Unspoken words weighted my young female body. 

Fifteen years ago, I had a spiritual awakening. Through this experience, I explored the teachings of Christ. Christ teaches not merely to love those who love you yet love your enemies as well. I embraced this message as well as the promise of release from the guilt and shame through restored relationship with God. Psalm 103:12 states “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us”.  

I recalled the many times that I had fallen off of my bike as a tomboy growing up in rural north east Texas. With a bloody knee full of gravel, I would walk my bike home to my mother. She would get out the alcohol and peroxide. Anticipating the burn, I would hold my hand over the wound until I could gather the courage to unveil it for treatment. Without the temporal, painful treatment the wound was bound to infection. With the exposure combined with medicine, would be healing. 

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed”. Though the abuse was not mine to confess, it had been the beginning of my awareness of injustice, sin and brokenness. I had committed my own hurtful acts and spoken wounds into others. 

It was this vision of the wound metaphor that allowed me the courage to speak the words that carried my story to others and appropriate spiritual healing many years ago. In January of this year, I began to come on a weekly basis to revisit my story one-on-one with one of the volunteers at the Eastern Plains Women’s Resource Center. This personal process was the impetus for the present project in collaboration with the women of the EPWRC, a handful of friends, and the many women who have contributed their stories to this process.  “

– Millie Watters, Artist

Afterword: The exploration and presentation of objects hosted a dialogue for women about what makes them feel valued, empowered, whole, inconsistent, ashamed, etc. Further, this work explores the potential power of the physical objects that reinforce, remind, and memorialize particular aspects of our identity.

#20 | Samara, Russia

Bus Station/Samara, Russia 2000
Oil on Canvas, 4′ x 8′
Millie Watters (Melinda Carter)

As an undergraduate art major at Texas Tech, I lived on the top floor of an unairconditioned dorm on campus. I remember sitting around with my group of friends talking about the kind of man we would want to marry and saying that I was looking for a good guy but not a “Bible Thumper”. Like most Texans, I had been to enough Vacation Bible Schools and church camps to have been “saved” many times over but never had an understanding of faith beyond a life insurance policy. 

I attended a Catholic retreat called Raider Awakening and the experience began to stir my soul, evoking curiosity about God. I explored various religions and was particularly captured by Jesus’ teachings such as the challenge to not only love those like them but also one’e enemy. Through a mysterious process, I crossed over to a kind of belief like set dye, where my own life could no longer be separated from Christ. I eventually moved to Russia from 1999-2000 as part of a spiritual stint and cultural exchange. 

For my Y2K Christmas, my parents sent over my first real camera, a Canon Rebel G. I began documenting the beautiful people and soviet structures in central Samara and throughout my travel. 

After my return home, I would complete my BFA in painting at Texas Tech and utilize my Russian images as reference material for my final painting work. 

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