"Those who tell the stories rule society"
It is a simple truth that throughout history, certain rapes have become “famous.” Old Master painters depicted sexual violence again and again, generally representing it as the transcendent work of heroes. Traditional Catholic stories teach that it is better to die during an attempted rape than it is to survive a completed one.
In 19th- and 20th-century America, notorious fear about the sexuality of Black men
wreaked havoc. From the days of Reconstruction through to the Central Park Jogger, wild accusations justified the literal and metaphoric lynching of men perceived as threats to white power.
Meanwhile, a revolution did take place. Conversations became public. Laws changed. In 1974 it was legal in all fifty states to rape one’s wife. By 1980, when a CBS movie of the week dramatized the first case of marital rape to come to trial, the depiction of events was told from the woman’s point of view—she was the hero. By 1993, marital rape was illegal in all fifty states.
Still, sexual assaults occurring in prisons remain comic fodder, and when our athletes rape, we remain unclear about whether a crime has been committed.
Andrea Baker’s project is to reflect on the history of how rape has been depicted.
She draws images of sexual assault from both art history and contemporary visual culture, remaking them as spare white paper cutouts against a paper-packing-tape background. The swath of time from Mesopotamia to the present day is flattened and rolled out in unflinching continuity. As difficult as the material is, we do see progress within a history that is not always as distant we might prefer, and Baker is insistent that we celebrate our accomplishments, even as we continue to evolve.
A BIT ABOUT ME
Andrea Baker's Famous Rapes: From Mesopotamia to Steubenville and the accompanying Famous Rapes: The Coloring Book are due out from Water Street Press in Spring of 2018. Her most recent full-length collection of poetry is Each Thing Unblurred is Broken (Omnidawn, 2015). She has been a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellow, and, in 2005, she was the recipient of the Slope Editions Book Prize for Like Wind Loves a Window. Her cut-out work has been featured in The Rumpus and anthologized in Family Resemblance: An Anthology of Eight Hybrid Literary Genres (Rose Metal Press, 2015). In addition to her work on the page, she is a subject in the documentary, A Rubberband Is An Unlikely Instrument. Her interest in visual and material culture is fed by her employment in the auction industry. She lives in the Bronx, New York.
Poet | Artist | Writer
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EACH THING UNBURIED IS BROKEN
This is a book about the obstinacy of being. And it’s a book of craft, in which steadiness of presence generates the illumination that flickers through states darkened by steady crisis.
A lack of clarity stuck at the root of existence rises. Themes repeat to close on one another. Rage is a sacrament.
But the world is blurred, not broken. And a lyric I comes to rest in the world.
LIKE WIND LOVES A WINDOW
Baker avows that sight is visionary and that Vision is transformative. This is her "massive simplicity," a Blake-like virtue surely, in which the disruption of the eye by light, of words by breath (and by the breath-taking line breaks that are Andrea Baker's most beautiful signature) is a chaos becoming, quite simply, cosmic and wide.
-Donald Revell, from his introduction
Andrea Baker's Gilda is a haunting, a ghostly memory, a memory trace in which language approaches what we recognize as loss not through narrative but through metaphor.
-Claudia Rankine, from her introduction