At the end of our last Creative Mix meet-up, as we were about to leave, someone stood up and said, “I feel invisible.” This is a woman I admire, someone capable and confident, a fierce mother and committed feminist, as well as a strong storyteller. “I know we’re out of time,” she said, “but I just had to say that.”
I know a lot about feeling invisible.
Twenty-five years ago I walked down the aisle with a rabbi, unaware that I would soon be cast in a role that would tear at my identity. It has taken the better part of those twenty -five years to find my feet, to create a life outside my husband’s orbit with work that is mine alone to do.
Hannah Wilke, feminist artist and subject of the book I’m writing, spent seven years in a relationship with a man more famous and powerful than her. During the early years of her relationship with the Pop artist, Claes Oldenburg, she fought to get out of his shadow and be seen, literally putting herself in the picture through her art.
Women become invisible through attachment to public figures, when we stay home to watch over our children, or become caregivers to aging relatives. We can also become invisible with age, as if a few sags and wrinkles stripped us of our relevance. In Austin, we feel the latter acutely as the young techies take over our town.
How do we stand up and reclaim our place in public life?
We hold space for our work. We stand steady in the time and effort it takes, continuing whether the world is looking or not.
We gather together and bear witness to one another. I can’t stress enough the value of acknowledging one another, the energy it creates, not to mention the joy.
We continue to put our work into the world, find audiences and venues where we are valued. When we can’t find those venues, we create them.
We remember that what we have to say matters and that if we are called to the work, it is our responsibility to fulfill it.
I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of this topic and would love to hear from you about your experiences. When have you felt invisible and what has helped? How can we support one another as a community of serious, committed artists, writers, and creative women?