Near my home in Western Massachusetts, there is a farmer who plants huge fields of corn. Every summer around the time of the corn harvest, he cuts a maze into one of his cornfields, and opens the field up to anyone who fancies being lost inside walls of golden and green husks. As a young girl, I remember my mother holding my hand as we walked through this elaborate labyrinth. Never did I consider the symbology of that memory, of weaving to the center of a twisted maze, and emerging fresh and whole on the other side. Lucky for us here at Western, the Women’s Center has not only identified the symbolism of the labyrinth, but has turned it into a publication to be release on April 13.
“Labyrinth is a trans-inclusive art journal made by or about women,” said Dayo Anderson, Editor in Chief of this year’s publication. “It’s about creating a forum for women’s artwork.” She described that in the plethora of male dominated art and media, women’s voices and experiences can be lost—Labyrinth provides a forum for the publication of those less-heard, but equally important, voices.
“It’s hard to get people vulnerable enough to get their work published,” said Anderson. “In the past we’ve done themes, but this year there is no theme. We don’t want to put a label on anything or say, ‘this is inappropriate.’” When leafing through Labyrinth, you will see a range of literary and art works, including essays, paintings, photographs, poems and more. For your multi-media pleasure, the book itself is accompanied by a CD containing the work that could not be fit in to the structure of printed image or words.
“It is a collection of different types of activism and female experience. It covers a range of different issues—being a black woman, a girl loving another girl and not knowing what to do about it… all these different experiences,” said Anderson.
Sure, there are other publications available for your visual and verbal perusal, but Labyrinth, with its saturation of female experience and voice, stands singular in its impact and intention. “It seems so obvious, but the emphasis on women and women’s art makes Labyrinth really unique. Having art and work done but women creates an entirely different feel from other publications. Labyrinth feels very soft and round and active at the same time. There’s a lot of emotion, and an underlying feeling of activism with this publication. There is not a homogeny [in the content of the journal], but there is a theme in the activism.”
The theme of activism is consistently evidenced in the voices of women throughout history who have worked to resist, change and reform unequal systems through both obvious and subtle means. You could consider Labyrinth a modern-day package of multi-media memoir and narrative, illuminating both the commonalities and individuality within women’s collective and individual voices and struggles.
“Condensing down work from women, you find that so many women have the same issues. After reading it, you have a feeling of solidarity, of, ‘oh, I’m not alone.’” Anderson said that the finding of commonality among women is one of the underlying intentions of Labyrinth. “This is women creating solidarity among women,” she said. “I think women in general will really get a lot out of it. Everyone will get a lot out of it- women in particular, but not just women’s studies women, not just women’s center women,” she said.
If you happen to be of the male contingent and are reading this thinking, “oh, man, another feminist blah, blah, blah,” think again. Anderson told me that, just days ago, a male student came up to her full of excitement about the release of Labyrinth. This student informed Anderson that reading Labyrinth was what “opened my eyes to the truth of female experience.”
Students from across campus, and within the Bellingham community at large, have contributed their art, writing, experiences and time to making this year’s publication more rich and diverse than ever before. “There is work by art majors, creative writing majors, a graphic design major, a 40-year-old woman from the community, some recent graduates…” recounts Anderson. “This year there’s a lot more women of color pieces than there have been in previous years. There’s a lot of diversity in this years issue—it’s really exciting.”
Anderson also noted that Labyrinth’s open-submission structure invites women who may have never had their voice heard like this to express themselves. “By reading it, you are supporting women who might not have been published before,” she said. This element adds to the variation and richness of voice represented in Labyrinth.
To celebrate the birth of this exciting publication, there will be a release party on April 13, from 7-10 p.m., in the VU Art Gallery. Currently, the gallery is displaying much of the artwork to be published in Labyrinth, and also some art that was submitted for the publication, but not included. “The idea of the release party is to release Labyrinth and share it,” said Anderson. “There will be free food, live music, and art… give yourself a reason to dress up, and come out and support your artist friends,” she said.
Hopefully, Labyrinth will invoke in you a feeling similar to the awe and excitement I felt as a young girl exiting the corn husk maze with my mother. “Many theorists have equated the labyrinth to the uterus, and the walls of the uterus. In symbology, there is the idea that inside every woman there is a labyrinth—you can come to the center, find yourself again, and be reborn,” said Anderson. Come to the party, pick up a free copy of Labyrinth, support the voices of the contributing artists and writers, and emerge refreshed and new from the power of shared experience and creativity.