It all started with in Michele Bachmann. It was spring 2011, and watching how she presented herself, and represented American women, in the Republican primary debates got to me. She was working twice as hard as the male candidates, trying to sound smart AND look good. Why the double standard?
When something gets to me, I draw it out. I started with 6" square portraits of Rep. Bachmann and all the women (17) in the 112th Senate. Then, I tackled the House, powersuit by tiny powersuit (77, give or take a few resignations). Last September, as the election kicked into high gear, I started a tumblr (http://womenofthe112th.tumblr.com) to share my work. The response has been overwhelming: the little women got a big response all over the web and world (including the Huffington Post, MTV’s election coverage, and on a digital billboard in downtown Atlanta).
Now, two years after starting the project, I've just finished the last portraits of the record-breaking freshwoman class of the 113th Congress. Somewhere along the line--I think around November 6, 2012--what started as a critical inquiry into the pomp and preen of the country's female politicians turned into a celebration of the US's progress towards gender equality. The scale of it! Eighty-one congresswomen and twenty female senators in the 113th. I don't have a wall big enough (50+ feet) to hang all the portraits. I know linear feet of watercolor paintings is an abstract measure, but I know what it means: we've come a long way.
So what comes next? I've made some infographics of the 113th Congress, and plan on making more, to show where the women of Congress stand on issues like gun control, abortion rights, and marriage equality. I'd like to take a crack at Hillary and the women of SCOTUS. And I'm talking to my community of followers (now, unbelievably, over 50,000 on tumblr) to get ideas.
I started this project because it seemed timely and relevant to talk about the role of women in American politics. But I never would have imagined the response--thank you to everyone who's joined me along the way. I hope, with the support of Looking@Democracy, we can keep this conversation going, even if it's not election season.