This is a collaborative work with my daughter, Francesca Bozzelli.
In 1917, 168 women were unlawfully imprisoned and denied basic privileges for demanding their right to vote. The suffragists weren’t afraid to make a spectacle. Sophisticated, well-educated, high-society women refused to pay a small fine for their release and instead chose sentences of incarceration of up to seven months. These women were tortured, beaten and forcefully fed, but endured inhumane treatment for equality.
The fabricated metal keys in this piece are replicas of those used in D.C. Prison to jail the suffragists. Each key represents one suffragette, while the wallpaper, imbued with metaphoric images, illustrates their invisible and unrecognized sacrifice. In An Exquisite Spectacle we used common symbols from the suffragist movement (keys, sunflowers, irises) and imagery from first person accounts to tell our understanding of their story. Deprived of hairbrushes and toothbrushes, blankets and basic necessities, these women generously resigned lives of privilege and comfort. By turning their brave actions into object we hope to make their enormous struggle tangible.
As collaborators we share the desire to recognize and highlight the struggle of women that came before us. The suffragists built a strong community of women using their shared experience in order to change society. As a mother and daughter team, this feeling of community has kept us engaged in the fight and motivated to highlight their determination.
The keys are replicas of the DC Prison key where they awaited trials on trumped up charges. The wallpaper contains images that remind us of their stories, and the lives that they left behind.