The clarity of light : self-representation through art making : a personal response to the social justice work of WAI the Women's Art Initiative Collective : an exegesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Creative Arts, Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand
Through the medium of art a very different way of thinking about, representing, and responding to women who have experienced violence has been constructed. The Women's Art Initiative (WAI) collective approach to art making within an insider community offers a powerful, authentic, self-directed alternative to more commonly applied art therapy approaches. It challenges many deeply entrenched deficit and pathologising stereotypes which are used to represent women who are considered too broken or unsafe to speak for themselves. This research shares the WAI way of thinking and an applied approach that are anchored in years of reflective practice, many conversations, and a rich diversity of membership. It clearly reveals the profound, socially engaged, and unique responses women can construct when they are respected, heard, and offered autonomy within an insider directed art making setting. The WAI Spirographic model of practice, a personal body
of stained glass art work, and the collaborative fabric works developed demonstrate a personal response to the research findings. Sharing such precious and privileged knowledge within the space of a research environment may hold dangerous potential for misunderstanding and further exposure of those who have already suffered the overwhelmingly negative responses that others often make to them. It is, however, the best chance that we have, as those who know violence intimately,
to create change, and to have our perspectives and knowledge recognised and legitimated.