Gwynneth VanLaven

A Woman of Many Hats
multimedia installation (inkjet, resin, moulded plastic, text)
72 x 48 x 6 in.

Come, peer into this simple plastic vessel cradled by the rim of the toilet. The container is for collecting urine. It awaits the trickle to check kidneys. With my diseased kidneys will come a flood like a firehose. Many hats. It IS technically called a “hat.” I’m tired of being defined by my (sick) biology. A floating poem: “At times, I’ve worn so many hats. Sometimes my “hats” hold just pee, others –different facets of me.”

My identities call for all sorts of hats, helmets, and caps. Identities can be important. As perceivers we make quick assessments, as wearers we try on different versions of “me,” such as with gender. Some of my identities help make me feel purpose, belonging, and strength. With this pandemic, many identities have fallen aside- jobs, hobbies, pastimes. During COVID I don’t swim. I no longer ride horses. I’m not teaching now. However, I am still a frequent medical patient, disabled and queered in an always-ailing female body. It is especially important now to reclaim identities other than the “sick” or “hysterical” woman. While “neurotic, hysteric, and histrionic” haunts our broken healthcare system, we are always garnering new hats and ways of being in the world.

In the COVID era we have amazing powers of self (re)invention and identification. We also still have the body problem, and that of identity. Especially when our presentation of self doesn’t “suit” our prescribed role, this is a call to a “come-as-we-are party,” where none is alike, and all are celebrated.

artist’s website

© Gwynneth VanLaven