Dropping the gavel into a fragile strength


Photo credit: Marianna Chambard

Anisha Brady

Caitlin Francis’ tumultuous past and a year of meticulous work on the wheel has given birth to “Anonym-us,” an exhibit and sanctuary for sexual abuse survivors.

“I’ve collected stories from survivors across the country and rewrote their words exactly as they were onto my main piece,” Francis said. “As a fellow survivor, I wanted to create a safe and quiet place to raise more awareness and empathy. I believe everybody can relate to feelings of shame, guilt, loneliness and confusion.”

Her collection of delicate porcelain works symbolize the personal and universal complexities of coping with sexual abuse and its detrimental after-effects.

After a year of battling a dismembered and insensitive court system, Francis fought for her closure through ceramics.

Francis’ “Past Recollection” a mound of delicate porcelain pieces. Photo credit: Marianna Chambard

“Past Recollection” looks like a heap of bunched papers in a corner. However, this heap is compiled of thinly-folded pieces of porcelain arranged to represent Francis’ feeling of being discarded on the floor by the court system.

“This has to do with my experience with the court. A lot of people hope that it will bring closure or some sort of liberation but it’s actually quite the opposite. You end up feeling like a piece of paper or waste of bureaucratic time, so you’re left to find your own closure,” Francis said.

The use of porcelain takes on a deep meaning. While its fragile nature makes it easily adaptable, there exists a strong and impermeable quality to it.

“Dropped Gavel,” a piece consisting of porcelain vessels atop a bed of cement. Photo credit: Marianna Chambard

In her piece “Dropped Gavel,” Francis spun numerous delicate vessels, each are specifically designed with distinctive bends and indents. These pieces are scattered on a bed of fragmented cement.

“The vessels are representative of the human body in conversation with a broken judicial system. It began very personal, but I wanted to make it more approachable and relatable to many,” Francis said.

“Recordings,” Francis’ main piece, adopts the same theme of strength in fragility but this time through ceramic cuffs. Each cuff is written the story of a sexual abuse survivor.

“I collected around 50 stories from people across the nation. It was cathartic to rewrite other people’s words and really understand those words and also allow myself to be emotional in that process,” Francis said.

“Anonym-us” has not only been an impressive achievement for Francis but a monumental symbol of freedom.

“The project has helped me feel unashamed and not alone,” Francis said. “All of a sudden, I am able to find words that I couldn’t before.”

Anisha Brady can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_arts on Twitter.