Kriston Capps is a staff writer for CityLab covering housing, architecture, and politics. He previously worked as a senior editor for Architect magazine.
“Whenever women come together, there’s a certain power in that.”
Note: The art images below contain nudity.
CLEVELAND—One hundred naked people gathering in private at a conservative political convention is a scandal or a party or both. At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, more than 100 women shed their clothes for another purpose: a psychic demonstration.
Spencer Tunick, a photographer who uses the public sphere and the unclothed masses to make his work, assembled dozens of women for a protest artwork in Cleveland on Sunday. This piece was an unusual one, because the work came together on private property. The artist tends to denude public spaces by crowding city streets, hill tops, and seasides with naked figures of all shapes, sizes, and color.
Sunday’s piece, Everything She Says Means Everything, is also peculiar in that the artist meant for something greater than art to happen. Tunick brought together these women in order to “shine some female progressive energy on the convention center,” as he explains in an email.
“Over 1,600 brave women have signed up,” Tunick says. “This high number alone sends a strong message that these people are willing to go beyond their limits to shout out with their bodies and make their voices heard through visual art.”
The piece took place at a private residence on the west bank of the Flats, a neighborhood just across the Cuyahoga River from the Quicken Loans Arena, where the Republican National Convention is taking place. For Tunick’s photo, the women held up mirrors in the direction of “The Q” to channel a message directly to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“The pessimistic side of me thinks that Donald Trump, in particular, is pretty deaf when it comes to any issue outside of himself,” says Darlene English, a Cleveland resident who disrobed for Tunick’s protest project. “My hope is that everyone will see that women are powerful. Their opinions matter. Their decisions matter.”
The women’s reasons for being there were as varied as their appearances in the photo. English says that the project’s value is that it showed how women of diverse backgrounds are singularly women. There were about 130 women involved with the project altogether, she says. Tunick shot photos of two groups of women: one of a crowd of 100, one of a much smaller crowd of 25.
Christine McIntosh, another Cleveland resident who joined Tunick’s project, says that she rejects efforts by men to restrict the autonomy of women, and that her participation in this art project reflected this. She participated in the smaller shoot. Tunick’s photographs usually afford their subjects anonymity by massing many bodies together in one place. But in a photograph with two dozen other naked women, McIntosh can pick herself out of the lineup, she says.
“I think in hindsight it makes me more nervous, but yesterday morning, I didn’t feel that way at all,” McIntosh says. “It’s very empowering to look around and see women … just getting together and uniting for one powerful message.”
In the end, the women had not one message to tell the Republican Party—and the world—but rather many.
“Everyone had a different reason to be there,” English says. “People talked about surviving abuses to their body. They wanted to make a statement, that they owned it, not the people doing the abuses. Whenever women come together, there’s a certain power in that.”