C Catherine Mellor
Once upon a time... when I was 18 years old, I was inspired to explore my relationship with labels, stereotypes, and bullying through art.
It began with my art therapy midterm. I started by writing all of the labels that I could remember being called, by society, other people, and myself, on “Hello My Name Is” nametags. The labels ranging from positive to negative to neutral. I wrote about five hundred different labels. Doing this felt therapeutic, but I still wanted to take it to the next level.
During a visit to New York City, I decided, what better place to explore my relationships with labels than in the label factory of the world, Time Square. To do this, I recruited a couple family members for help and we covered my body, from my nose to my toes, in “Hello My Name Is” nametags.
Decked out in this wardrobe of words, I stood in Time Square to see how people would react to me interacting with my labels. The medium was metaphoric, as wearing the labels highly restricted my ability to move without causing the labels to rip.
It was empowering to wear all of these labels as tangible badges of honor across my body and take back the perceived power the words had over me and my identity. I had diverse responses, from some people coming up and discussing how labels have impacted their lives, to others crossing the street to be as far away from me as possible.
The longer I stood in the labels, the more confident I felt standing in my vulnerability. The experience left me feeling empowered and fully present in my body—there was a cathartic liberation in taking ownership of all of the labels I was wearing.
The reaction I received after presenting the work in class took on a life of its own. I have done 18 performances around the world!
While performing, I discovered a desire to develop a way for people to engage with the power of words directly for themselves, outside of the public platform. And over the decade since I have developed ways for you to explore your relationship with words without having to stand in the middle of the city covered in name tags. I would love to share with you!