GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids-based artist says their piece looks bizarre and playful at first glance, but viewers will quickly realize its depth.
“I wanted to grab people’s attention, like, ‘Oh, what is that?'” artist Caroline Bell said. “People usually just approach it in a playful way, like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is this giant meat lady.'”
But then, Bell said, people see the title.
Stripped Autonomous Rights, an installation that Bell described as a “meat lady knit sculpture piece,” can be found at Harmony Brewing Company for ArtPrize 2023.
The artist, who uses they/them pronouns, told News 8 the overturn of Roe v. Wade prompted them to create Stripped.
“I wanted to visually communicate how I was feeling and how a lot of other people across the country were feeling when that happened,” Bell said. “I wanted to visually create this idea of how it felt — women and people who have this autonomous right being stripped away from them and being taken away. And comparing them to livestock for reproduction.”
Ultimately, they created a cross between a female form and a piece of meat. The “meat lady” is hung on a clothing rack with rope and a genuine meat hook. Bell told News 8 they wanted to incorporate ideas of consumption and consumerism, too.
“Placing that heavy emphasis on, I can’t have rights unless I’m being consumed,” they explained. “Like, I’m just being hung up on a meat hook.”
Stripped is a soft-knit sculpture, with a soft, malleable base of recycled memory foam.
“And then on top of that, I started stitching things together,” Bell said. “I just started layering on fabric to build up this bodily form.”
The whole process took about two weeks.
Bell said they were inspired, in part, by French-born artist Louise Bourgeois.
“(Bourgeois) uses these organic forms and fleshy textures to convey all these ideas about feminism and all these things,” they explained.
Bell told News 8 they hope Stripped will force viewers to consider the impact of Roe v. Wade — and its overthrow — and, ultimately, produce change.
“When people can relate to this piece and realize what this piece is about, then I think that serious change will begin to implement and start happening,” they said.