Friday, April 17, 2015

Letter to a Man I Do Not Know

Dear Sir,

I think of you every single day, and I often wonder whether you think of me. About a week after we met, I was in my living room with one of my best friends, listening to music. Drinking tea. Michael Jackson came on. (cue; play from 0:13-1:03).

And I really tried to play it cool. But that’s one of my favorite songs. Shaun looked at me: Did I want him to change it? And I wept. In that moment, I was angrier with you than I was before or have been since. You fucked up the song, man!

There were still newspapers taped over the dining room windows — triple-layered, so that even at night my silhouette couldn’t be seen from outside. I told Shaun not to change the song, and laughed … and wept … and made him feel really uncomfortable. I felt crazy, and I was acting crazy, and I knew it, and I couldn’t help it.

But at least I had people with me. The neighbors who ran from their homes when they heard me screaming. Especially Sam, who came out in her bathrobe to make sure it wasn’t only men who came to help. My partner, who sprinted the two blocks from our house. Hanover Police. Lebanon Police. A full set of EMTs. All within minutes. And you were … alone, in your car, somewhere. How did it feel?

In the weeks after, I obsessively locked the doors. I couldn’t sleep with the (second story) window open, no matter how hot and stuffy my room was. I couldn’t even piss alone. Every moment, everywhere, I feared that you would Come Back. That you would Try Again. Every man who looked remotely like you sent me into a panic.

But at least I had people I could talk to. The ER nurses, who laughed awkwardly at my fucked-up jokes. Detective Norris, who filmed an on-scene reenactment the very next day. Deans, shrinks, cops, and cops, and cops, and a slew of Facebook friends. My partner, who never tried to get me to stop crying and who put his fingers in his ears when he accompanied me to the bathroom so that I could piss with some shred of dignity intact.

What about you? Did you have anyone you could confide in? I imagine you felt similar fears, for a while. Would someone recognize you from the police sketch? Would the next knock on your door be law enforcement? Were you crazy?

I have so many questions. Like … did you know me? Or was it totally random? How long had you been planning it? Had you done anything like that before? Was it what you expected? What did you expect? What did you want to do to me? Were you nervous, or scared, or excited? Were you looking forward to it? Did you go to work that day, or visit your mom, or anything? What about the day after? How often do you think about it? How did you feel when you saw the news report? Do you regret it? Do you make jokes about it? (‘Cause, like, I do.) Where did you get the stun gun? I’ve imagined you shopping around online, optimizing for price and performance value. Do you still have it? Do you still have the clothes that you were wearing? Mine are in an evidence bag somewhere, probably forever … and those were my favorite jeans. My mom replaced them, though. Exact same kind. So it's cool.

I’m comfortable being home alone again, and pissing has long since ceased to be a social activity. I can even walk through an unfamiliar neighborhood after dark. And “Smooth Criminal” is still one of my favorite songs.

What I’m trying to tell you is: I’m okay. Are you?

Callista Womick

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Dartmouth: Hop Garage exhibit will showcase artwork inspired by bodies

Shared from The Dartmouth:
Tomorrow evening, BARE, “an open gallery art show with nothing to hide,” will open, featuring sculptures, videos and works of other artistic media that explore different aspects of the human body.

A major in studio art, organizer Callista Womick ’13 said her inspiration for the exhibit came from a project that she had worked on as a senior in a sculpture class.

“I made an iron cast of my own vagina, and it was a really affirming experience,” she said. “After that, I reached out to a number of different groups on campus about how maybe I could create an opportunity for other people to explore their own bodies in their own or similar ways.”

Womick had previously worked with the Center for Gender and Student Engagement, which is sponsoring the exhibit, to develop a pregnancy support program for undergraduate students. In addition to offering her advice and administrative assistance for the BARE project, the center hosted a series of “making sessions” at its Choate Road offices last week, giving visitors the space, time and materials, including plaster for body casts, necessary to create work for the exhibit.

Between the sessions and Womick’s calls for art over Facebook and over email, she said she has received “a couple dozen” submissions, spanning different media.

“We have a sound piece, a video of a performance, photo, painting, sculpture,” she said. “It’s a really eclectic show.”

Although making work for the exhibit required no prior artistic experience, many who have contributed identify as artists. Samantha Freese, a private school teacher from Canaan who plans to become a full-time artist, said she will display a work called “Dressed to Form,” a portrait of a woman measuring her waist in a mirror, her body “obstructed from the viewer by a dress form.”

Often turning to the human form to explore either issues she struggles with or those faced by the world at large, Freese said that this piece “shows the struggle that nearly every woman faces to fit into what society has deemed the perfect body.”

“When I created this piece, I was feeling a little insecure — earlier in the day I was getting dressed, and none of my clothes fit me the way I wanted them to,” she said.

That day, Freese decided to face her insecurities by eschewing clothing altogether. She said she realized that her inhibitions would likely strike a chord with many women.

Ruth Cserr ’88, a landscape artist, also drew on themes relating to the female body. Taking four separate studies of a single photograph and mounting them on handmade paper, she created “Bare Knuckle Studies May 2014,” a piece that she said considers the parts of a woman’s flesh that are conventionally forbidden from public view.

“I was thinking about things like how nipples are always X-rated on women, and yet they can go out in public on men, and I was also thinking very much about how women’s bodies are so completely objectified — often, not always — but then they are policed,” she said. “So we say, ‘Oh, this nude body is so sexy and sensual, but you can’t show it.’”

What Cserr did, then, was take multiple images of the same female torso and combine them to create a pattern. The result, she said, took on a decorative quality, reminding her of a William Morris print.

“I was interested in the body as an ornament, and just playing with it and putting something out there that you weren’t supposed to put out there,” Cserr said. “This pattern of body bits becomes itself a different kind of ornament.”

Ezra Teboul, a student in Dartmouth’s digital musics program, created a piece from the noise that Pop Rocks make in people’s mouths.

In his art, he said, he works off of common concepts and methods.

“Starting with a term as ubiquitous as ‘pop rock,’ I immediately thought it would be interesting and fun to get a few people to use the candy as an instrument,” he said.

Ultimately, Womick said she hopes the exhibit fosters compelling conversation.

“I think we have a diversity of work, and some are quite provocative, so I hope that people who visit the show will come away asking questions of themselves and of one another,” Womick said. “It wouldn’t be a good show if that didn’t happen.”

Submissions will be accepted until the Hop Garage runs out of room, Womick said. The show will be on display until June 9.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Interview with Georgi Klissurski '14

Excerpt from my March 24 interview with Georgi Klissurski '14:
Callista Womick: We already touched on this a little bit, but have there been any times when you didn’t feel like you fit in here?
Georgi Klissurski: Well, definitely at the end of my freshman fall. Yeah, I just felt a little bit estranged from some people on my floor, and—yeah, perhaps not that I didn’t fit but that I didn’t belong.
In terms of not fitting in, I was a little bit anxious coming in, just—I was wondering how people would react to my accent and how that might turn out in terms of friends and girls or just socially, but I think I was a little bit self-conscious about it the first couple terms, maybe the entire freshman year, but for the most part, people were very nice, and it was really never a big deal. And I don’t think, like, people shied away from me or anything because of my accent.
I think—yeah, maybe freshman year or even the beginning of sophomore year, I had a couple of instances when, like, I would be talking to girls in louder spaces, and, like, they couldn’t understand what I was saying, and they would, like, kind of like, “Uh...” and go somewhere else, and I was, like, Ugh! Great, you know. But that went away, I think.
And honestly—again, it’s one of those things where I have learned to live with it. I think it’s totally fine. I know that people recognize it right away and hear it, but when I don’t
feel self-conscious about it and I still feel confident in the way I speak and the ideas I express, I think that that makes people comfortable and willing to engage with me.
I think it’s a neat little experiment because—you know, that’s very benign. You have an accent. That’s kind of like one of my differences and one of the ways in which I’m different. But I think I still manage to, for the most part, be confident and appear confident, and people all of a sudden don’t care about my accent.
I think people who are different in other ways—racially or backgrounds, socioeconomically, whatever it may be—sometimes—and I know it’s hard, and I have no idea what they’re going through, but sometimes they feel self-conscious about it. And of course. Maybe it’s natural. I mean, they’re having hard times. They have grown up in very difficult ways, and coming to this seemingly perfect environment, they might feel intimidated. But I do believe that if you believe in yourself and you’re confident regardless of your backgrounds and maybe things that socially are accepted as different and whatever, you can thrive here.

Dartmouth Community and Dartmouth’s World is an ongoing oral history project that launched in 2012. The project’s goal is to document the changing nature of the Dartmouth community in the second half of the twentieth century with an emphasis on the concept of the insider and outsider and how those roles and perceptions change for various constituencies over time. Narrators will include members of the Dartmouth community from 1945 to the present, representing a broad spectrum of voices and perspectives.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Edible Book Festival: Booklava

Shared from Dartmouth Spoon:
Berry Main Street was filled with delicious (and some questionable) treats Monday evening as the Dartmouth College Library participated in the International Edible Book Festival for the first time in Dartmouth’s history. Also known as Edible Book Day, the festival has been celebrated since 2000 all over the world. Despite being first-timers, Dartmouth’s participants rose to the challenge, turning out a large variety of punny, mouthwatering culinary artwork based on famous novels.

Walking down a set-up of fold-out tables, students and faculty alike ooh-ed, ahh-ed and lol-ed at Robert Frosting’s “The Rocky Road Not Taken” (accompanied by an equally creative poem); a terrifying, bloody “Killer Angel Food Cake” based on Michael Shaara’s historical novel Killer Angels, which depicted a marzipan hand and knife projecting out of the center of a scrumptious-looking angel food cake; and, finally, “Booklava,” a chocolate-bound baklava, which won the title of Most Creative for paying homage to the festival’s inspiration: the book.
Photo by Katelyn Jones; Booklava by Callista Womick

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


It snowed today. It actually snowed today.

© Callista Womick 2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Modeling for Juliette Belmonte

I spent several weeks this spring modeling for a small group of local artists at the studio of painter Juliette Belmonte. Here's Juliette's piece:

I connected with Juliette through the Upper Valley listeserv, which is terrific for connecting with all kinds of local people about all kinds of things. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dartmouth Wants to Make It Clear They're Taking Sexual Assault Seriously

In a recent press release sent to Jezebel, Dartmouth characterizes sexual assault as "high-risk behavior" alongside drinking and hazing. Alright then.