Body Work: Art in the Era of #MeToo

I developed Dissociative Identity Disorder as a child. It was my mind’s way of protecting a self from chronic trauma. D.I.D. works to preserve a part of you; this part, protected and comforted by fractures in your own mind, can develop as if you didn’t grow up in a traumatic environment. But in turn, your own life becomes a mystery to you. You don’t know yourself, you don’t get what has happened or what may still be happening. Your own experiences are taken from you so you can survive them.

At some point, in order to be well and whole again, the walls have to come down.

This is a really tough process, and my art was such an important part of how I got through it. My art became a way to know myself better, a path of self-communication and healing. It was also a way to share what I had gone through, and was struggling with, without having to say it. It was a means of not being isolated by trauma. The realizations would have buried me without this outlet. I feel very lucky to have had it, and to have given myself permission to live so openly, through my art, as I was coming back together.

My self-portraits were my bridge back to life.

My trauma does not make me unique. The sexual violence committed against women and children is the greatest blight upon our planet. I merge with all other victims of our species most heinous and prevalent sin.

My “body work,” as I call it, is made up of single and multiple life-size self portraits patched up with reproduction quilting fabrics. They provide a personal narrative to my life and speak more broadly to the lives of women and girls across the globe.

My abuse taught me to feel shame and self loathing. I learned that I had no value. I learned to hate my body. I learned I did not deserve love. I preferred to be alone than to be seen for how disgusting and worthless I believed that I was. I struggled in every aspect of my life. I wished I did not exist.

My art has been my own revolution from within. It has been a way to tend to my trauma and find self-value once more.

Each time one woman asserts herself against the self-hatred and shame taught by abuse, the world is a better place—and her energy and healing is a bridge for the next woman or girl to love herself in the way life was intended. We are too often taken from ourselves and our right paths by sexual abuse. It rests on all of us to accept and nurture the healing child and woman wherever she is on her journey back from trauma. I hope my work can offer encouragement to others who have suffered. I hope it gives them the strength to face and accept their pain and broken parts and love and nurture themselves back to wellness. I hope they can know it was not their fault and that they deserve the love and care that is every human’s birthright.

If I can do it, I know they can, too.



Lisa Foster is an artist. She crafts self-portraits that examine a difficult past. She is represented by the Abigail Ogilvy Gallery in Boston.