For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed writing, usually in the form of a story recounting some personal experience. It is quite cathartic to put memories into words, particularly the more painful ones. The simple act of allowing oneself to think about the moments which have lead you to where you are now and putting them on paper can be an enormous release, lifting the weight certain recollections hold, making space for new thoughts and ideas. While many keep a journal of some form, only a few actually publish what they’ve written.
There was a time when I was totally willing and able to bare my soul for the world to see, proudly displaying my bruises and scars, allowing myself to be vulnerable through full disclosure of my own humanity; because that’s what felt best at the time, and that was what I needed for my own healing. To my surprise, the responses from those who read what I was putting out were overwhelmingly positive, particularly from other young women. I was told that my openness and honesty about the darker moments in my life made them feel less alone, and inspired them to push through whatever they were facing. Those kind responses from friends, strangers, and people I looked up to made me feel like taking that risk and exposing my wounds was worth it, especially because I would have never been motivated to share my own experiences on public platforms if not for others I saw doing the same.
In my search for others as open as myself I came across two young artists from opposite sides of the world, producing similar work, both of whose practices involve what I am choosing to call “the art of oversharing.” The first is Perth-based, feminist photographer and artist, Madison Mclerie. Having only just turned 20, this young woman is wise beyond her years, undoubtedly strong-willed and courageous. Her photographic work features women of varying sizes, shapes, and colors, and more often self-portraits accompanied by a story or a series of thoughts, usually having to do with current social and political issues. Whether it was her intention or not, her public displays of vulnerability have had a significant impact on hundreds of other young people, fumbling into adulthood, trying to make sense of the world around us. Her images are honest and raw, but it is her voice which holds the most power.
LF: To begin, who are you and what do you do?
MM: I’m the stock-standard young female creative, a huge cliché, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’d like to think I’m a part of a new wave global movement of young artists using art to encapsulate and explore gender, sexuality, identity and the female experience.
LF: Much of your work consists of self-portraits paired with in-depth, personal stories, particularly on your Instagram. What was the motivation to begin sharing so much on such a public platform? What has the response been to this kind of work?
MM: I was tired of feeling vulnerability was shameful. Sharing myself publicly is daunting, at times I feel overly exposed, However, the solidarity and positivity I’m lucky to receive makes it beyond worth brief moments of anxiety. Art for me will always be selfish. I will always use it as a mechanism to process thoughts and feelings into something physical or visual. Because of this my work will always be deeply personal and it’s an aspect I will have to come to accept.
LF: The phrase “the personal is political” became a slogan of second-wave feminism during the 1960’s and 1970’s. What is your response to this phrase? Do you agree with it or disagree, and do you believe it is still a relevant argument today?
MM: I’ve studied politics and as a woman found it equally fascinating and infuriating at the amount of legislation centred specifically around decisions women are legally entitled to make for themselves. A prime example being abortion, what you would assume to be an incredibly personal decision, irrelevant to those not physically affected, is dictated by law. Stigma and enforced limitations rob women of their right to choice. Another increasingly relevant example being people’s inability to legally identify with their gender if it differs from their gender assigned at birth, Trans individuals aren’t given the same right to a legal identity and are confined by social perception influenced by mainstream politics. Politics is a necessary evil, it allows for democracy yet the legislative branch is frequently manipulated to encroach on the personal freedom of those already socially disadvantaged.
LF: How do you define feminism?
MM: Feminism is essentially equality between the sexes; politically, financially and socially. To briefly elaborate it opposes gender roles, rape culture, body ideals and general bigotry. Feminism is relevant and inclusive of all genders. I feel it is important to note that for feminism to be an effective model for equality it should be intersectional and recognize certain groups are at more of a disadvantage.
LF: When and how did you realize you were a feminist, or has it been something you were always aware of?
MM: I’ve always had attributes and values associated with the movement but it wasn’t until high school I found a name for it and begun to explore feminism as a community and social issue. I’m thankful for parents who relentlessly encouraged me to do and be what I wanted, I have been privileged to live a life with the support and opportunities that I have had. I’ve never had to view being female as a limitation to what I can achieve.
LF: How does feminism affect your daily life? How does it affect the decisions you make?
MM: It’s given me a sense of community and freedom. Being able to celebrate my womanhood shamelessly has allowed me to explore myself as an individual. The confidence I have gained from surrounding myself with strong female* figures has inspired me to embrace myself as an intelligent and sensual being. Feminism has guided me to a point where I feel safe and secure within myself. I feel a completely independent and unstoppable force. After years of internal conflict and self-loathing, I appreciate and love who I am.
LF: What is one thing you wish more people understood about feminism?
MM: Feminism isn’t fueled by hate. It’s fueled by passion.
LF: What and/or who inspires you?
MM: Sex and nature.
LF: If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
LF: What do you hope to accomplish with your work in the coming year?
MM: I want to explore more taboo issues, I want my art to be more inclusive and I am to push myself to work out of my comfort zone.
LF: How FAST do you live?
MM: I’m impulsive and refuse to be told what to do; I’d like to think that means I live relatively fast.