Women cut, rip into feelings

Wedding dress deconstruction honors slain teacher
Oct. 17, 2013 @ 08:21 PM

 In a matter of minutes, a symbol of till-death-do-us-part was reduced to pieces, some as small as inches.
Women armed with scissors and the tearing strength of their hands gathered Thursday night at the YWCA to participate in The Wedding Dress Project and to light candles and remember Laurrissa Armstrong, a teacher from High Point who was killed in an apparent domestic violence incident involving her husband.
They began by touching and handling the formal wedding dress and train covered with sequins, beads and lace. They called out words that came to mind, some with connotations beyond the usual descriptions: “itchy,” “showpiece,” “used once.” Then they asked the dress questions: “Was it worth it?” “Are you remembered fondly?”
Each woman selected her favorite piece and used it to create art or an assemblage or any sort she wanted. Their creations will be exhibited at the YWCA and at Welborn Academy, where Armstrong taught.
Later in the evening, the women talked about what they created and shared feelings and stories.
The wedding dress deconstruction was sponsored by the YWCA, High Point University and the city of High Point’s Human Relations Commission.
“The symbol of the wedding dress is important,” said Jennifer Brandt, director of women’s and gender studies at HPU. “People don’t realize the feelings they have until they’re asked to cut into it.”
The deconstruction was intended to open a dialogue about relationships and gender stereotypes and to create positivity, Brandt said. It also was designed to make women — and any interested men — feel comfortable discussing any issues they wished.
“When you’re working with your hands, it’s a way to open dialogue,” said Cara Hagan, an assistant professor of dance at HPU and founder of The Wedding Dress Project, a group without nonprofit status but one that offers programs free.
“A lot is about giving one’s self permission,” Hagan said. “A lot of women are in positions where they haven’t given themselves permission to leave or say no. It’s metaphorical; it translates into a lot of things.”

vknopfler@hpe.com / 888-3601