Posted in Art

An Answer to A Woman’s Cry of Help

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Artwork by İlayda Üstel

This awesome piece of artwork belongs to one of my friends from school İlayda. I fell in love with  it the moment I saw it, no exaggerating here (I actually have a print out which is framed and positioned near my favourite books). So I wanted to write an entry about it and hope it will actually live up to her art’s standards! The reason I wanted to write about it now, instead of in october (that’s when she showed me) is that I had this response paper for my Victorian Literature class and I had to write about a decorative item that I had at home and try to look at it the way John Ruskin would have if he were alive to it. I wanted to use something hand-made and perfect in its imperfectness, something Ruskin would definitely love and that inspired me to write a bit about it on here as well.

At first this may not make any sense to the onlooker-and before İlayda told me what it was about I was like “Oh-kay what is this?” Let me give you a hint: this is her take on Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” (which is one of my favorites and totally devastated me when I first read it back in high school). Those who have read it, are probably nodding now and realizing what every little detail may symbolize. For those who haven’t read it, well I might as well give a short summary. “The Lottery” is about a tradition of a village to ensure a good harvest although there are communities who have started to stop doing it. Nevertheless, on the day of the lottery people gather around and every head of a household has to draw a piece of paper from a black box. The household of the one who has the paper with a black dot on, has to draw again. So Bill Hutchinson draws the black dotted paper and then his wife Tessie. Then they let the paper fly off in the wind, pick up Tessie and *spoiler alert* stone her to death. I am not going to comment on the story though. There are so many good papers written on what it means, what every individual detail symbolizes. I don’t think that I have something more to add. So now, after the plot summary the painting (is it a painting though İlayda?) makes more sense I believe. That hand that we see there in the middle is clearly Tessie Hutchinson’s (although at first I thought it to be Bill’s, but Tessie makes much more sense) although it is not particularly a feminine hand (don’t really know how would that be but….) so that creates the ambiguity. We could be standing in the shoes of either Bill or Tessie and that fluidity kind of accepts all sorts onlookers, which is nice. Also, if this is Tessie’s hand it looks rough from working and by that I may say that the artist is showing us the hardships of the village, rural life especially on women. The hard work does not differentiate, it is hard for all of the genders. I also love the fact that she chose to focus on Tessie instead of the spectacle. This work is almost a recognition of Tessie’s final cry of help. While her fellow villagers fail to hear her, here the artist hears her weak solitary voice and through her work she keeps Tessie alive (going a bit Sonnet 18 here but isn’t that what art does though?).

I also like the background. It is mainly gray, representing the gloom that is awaiting Tessie, and blue, representing the cheerful summer day (June 27), but I like the addition of pink in the middle. It may represent the life and liveliness of Tessie, but it is a very light shade of red which can mean that her life is fading away. The juxtaposition of warm and cool colors also reflect the mood of the village. First we have children running around, gathering rocks and having fun and then we immediately shift to a scene of death. This sudden and unexpected nature of her death is captured by the (what I consider them to be) shiny blood drips. They also shocking and in your face, the artist here clearly criticized the shocking outcome of the draw and how people just go with it and turn it into a mob violence without even considering. I picture Tessie here as laying on the ground, being stoned to death-because of the stones scattered around the hand-and she is still clutching the piece of paper that changed her life while her life is slipping away. We see her in her last moments and that can be why her hand is see-through and not entirely material.

I have a lot more to say about both the story (if you haven’t read it yet, please go and do so it is not that long) and the art work, but I want to finish of by saying how I love the fact that the painting gives away nothing regarding the plot. This is a simple but thoughtful and brilliant way of picturing the story-it is simply genius. That is why I love it so much, besides the fact that it physically just looks good, you can see new details and make new connections to the story and ask new questions. So I personally thank you İlayda for creating this!