In youth, before I lost any of my senses, I can remember that I was all alive, and inhabited my body with inexpressible satisfaction; both its weariness and its refreshment were sweet to me.1
Big Girls is a series of acrylic paintings on canvas in which images of pre-teen girls challenge viewers, raising questions about gender roles and the loss of confidence that often occurs as they grow into young women.
The exhibition is about feelings of autonomy and empowerment that become largely overridden by the mediating influence of society. The images are predominantly those of girls between eight and eleven years old who are acting big. They display a time in their lives between being cute dimply tots and becoming young maidens They might still play hard and let their hair fly where it wants, but paint their nails and wear dangling earrings.
In Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development authors Brown and Gilligan describe their groundbreaking sociological study of girls from eight years to adolescence. 2 They reveal the changes in the manner in which their subjects deal with daily problems and conflicts, finding that as they become more “socialized” they also become less assertive. Power is traded off for popularity. The girls eventually become feminized; they are socially, psychologically and physically gendered.
1. Henry David Thoreau, Thoreau: Walden and Other Writings, ed and intro. Joseph Wood Krutch (Toronto: Bantam Books, c1962) 4.
2. Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan, Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development (New York: Ballantine, 1992).