“Ophelia Rising” is a series that focuses on women’s gestures framed by the space of a bathtub, a locus of intimacy suggestive of the womb, and draws from art historical paintings by late 19th Century artists Sir John Everett Millais and Mary Cassatt. I explored the tragic character Ophelia, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Although known for her femininity, innocence and virtue, Hamlet treats her with contempt and cruelty, which ultimately drives her to insanity and death after he kills her father, Polonius.
In these prints, I interpolate this character into a contemporary context. Ophelia is represented in various prints by young women of color, a middle-aged Semitic woman, and two elder women of various races, transforming Ophelia from the teenage victim of insanity and suicide into a woman who claims her sensuality, her courage in facing many attacks human rights and freedoms, and a person who experiences the full cycle of life. Ophelia represents any woman who is generative and can overcome what life brings her, rather than succumb to oppression, rejection, and heartbreak. She is a woman of any race or age who, like the heroine of Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise, rises “Out of the huts of history’s shame … Up from a past that’s rooted in pain.”