These past two days, amidst rolling waves of grief and fear, disgust and devastation, as we move through a world that looks the same but feels sharply different, Toni Morrison’s words have been rising to the top of my mind. This loss feels personal and painfully monumental, and it’s important to take time to process, to practice radical self care, to comfort those around us, to understand without complacently accepting, to ensconce ourselves in all the small moments of love and positivity we can find. It is imperative to dig down deep, to cultivate spaces of tenderness and healing, to get off the Internet and get a good night’s sleep, to do what you need to do to build the strength to keep fighting for our bodies and our rights. Grieve, check on your loved ones, and then roll your sleeves up.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.” – Toni Morrison
STAND, Los Angeles-based photographer Maggie West’s latest portrait series, is a shining embodiment of Morrison’s words, a healing reminder of the power of community, art, and female energy. The exhibit, which took place last night at Leiminspace gallery in Chinatown, as peaceful protestors crisscrossed DTLA not ten minutes away, was created in support of women’s rights, specifically Planned Parenthood, profiling the female artists, musicians, actors, and creatives who proudly and passionately support the organization.
Featuring Arvida Bystrom, Brittney Scott, Clementine Creevy, Peggy Noland, Alia Shawkat, Nika Takesh, Djuna Bel, Alaska Thunderfuck and many more, the series aims to highlight the diverse and incredibly inspiring spectrum of people who both utilize and stand in support of Planned Parenthood. The show also acted as a much-needed reminder that creativity is a powerful channel for community, that art is an important tool for change, progress, and forward motion.
West, whose previous work focused on sex, intimacy, and gender identity, brings her signature surreal use of light and color to the portraits, casting a gorgeous glow to each unique face, like a warmth lit from within. The result is mesmerizing: the power of femininity, determined and standing together, looking both vulnerable and strong, cast in soft, supernatural light.
Beyond the visual appeal, the project is a call to arms for support of the organization in this uncertain political climate, with all proceeds from prints and merch going directly to Planned Parenthood LA. As West reminds us, “2.5 million women and men in the United States visit Planned Parenthood every year for health services and information. If anything were to happen to them, it would be a national tragedy.”
“One of the best parts of photographing this series was hearing about the many ways that Planned Parenthood has provided help for people during their time of need. Almost everyone I photographed for STAND has visited Planned Parenthood at some point in their life and was happy to show their support for the organization. Planned Parenthood has provided me with birth control throughout many difficult times in my life and I am thrilled have the opportunity to give something back to them.” – Maggie West