University of Idaho alumna Amy Pence-Brown stood in downtown Boise in the middle of the crowed Farmers” Market wearing nothing but a bathing suit and a blindfold. She held markers and a sign inviting people to draw hearts on her body in support of self-acceptance.
Pence-Brown said she was nervous about the kind of reactions she would get from the public.
“I was worried that no one would share in my message of self acceptance,” Pence-Brown said. “[That] I would be standing there alone with no one drawing a heart for minutes that felt like hours, of course none of that happened.”
Pence-Brown had a photographer film the event as a means of documenting strangers” reactions to her own self-acceptance of her own body image.
Melanie Flitton Folwell, Pence-Brown”s photographer, said she was surprised by the public”s immediate and positive reaction.
“I excepted to stay there a long time but she got mobbed immediately,” Flitton Folwell said.
Since she was blindfolded and could not see, Pence-Brown said it was a relief to feel the first marker be taken from her hand.
“It was an immense sense of relief when the first marker slipped from my hands no later than ten seconds after I put the blindfold on and the first heart was drawn on my body,” Pence-Brown said. “Not only did the woman draw a heart but she wrote a word, which was not per my instructions, and they went rogue with that.”
Pence-Brown said during her stunt, people spoke to her, told her stories about others and cried to her.
In order to capture people”s raw reactions, Flitton-Folwell said she kept her distance to give individuals space.
“I stayed back – it”s my sense that I think people behave differently when they know they are being recorded,” Flitton Folwell said. “I didn”t want to interfere with what was happening.”
Pence-Brown, who has a master”s degree in art and architectural history, said she likes to incorporate elements of social activism into her work because she considers herself to be a socially-aware person.
“Social activism plays an important part in my artwork as well, even my needlework,” Pence-Brown said. “They”re often a little bit subversive or making a statement on what it means to be a woman or a mother.”
Pence-Brown said she identifies herself as a feminist and she views feminism as a social movement that is possible for both men and women to support.
Pence-Brown said education played a large role in her development as a social activist, and she said she was especially influenced in who she is by her time spent at UI.
“I always think that my educational background played, and continues to play, a huge role in everything that I do,” Pence-Brown said. “From my art, to my parenting, to what I read, what I watch on T.V., how I interact with other people.”
Pence-Brown”s video has affected many individuals, including UI student Ali Chavez.
“Everybody has a different body shape and I don”t think we should judge people by their bodies, we should judge them by their bravery,” Chavez said. “She was obviously really brave doing that, blindfolding herself and standing in the middle of downtown Boise.”
Pence-Brown said one of the most important part of her performance is expressing the idea that you need to love and accept yourself first and foremost.
“All bodies are good bodies and that there is no wrong way to have a body,” Pence-Brown said. “That it all begins with self-love and self-acceptance and that all bodies are valuable.”
Alex Brizee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org