The Republic of Hysteria

The Republic of Hysteria, 2017. Oil on paper, series of 12 paintings, 22.5 X 30 inches each.

The Republic of Hysteria reimagines the mythological history of the Laughing Hyena, a female-dominated species that has been historically maligned in folklore.

The Laughing (or Spotted) Hyena, Crocuta Crocuta, native to sub-Saharan Africa. C. Crocuta displays unique social behaviors, particularly pertaining to gender roles. Females are larger and more aggressive than males, are more sexually promiscuous, and possess genitalia that closely resembles that of their male counterparts. Primarily hunters, these intelligent animals are also scavengers, making them highly adaptive and successful in terms of biological fitness. 

Despite her impressive qualities, mythological culture has consistently assigned C. Crocuta negative characteristics. African and Western folktales associate her with greediness, gluttony, witchcraft, grave-robbing, cannibalism, and, most prominently, sexual perversion and immorality. Some scientists believe that the animals' negative reputation poses a threat to her survival. 

The Republic of Hysteria* is a mythical community of female-bodied human figures in Hyena costumes who rule their space with matriarchal jurisdiction. The barren landscape is strewn with reminders of both gentle femininity and brutal abandonment. Pink ribbons, silk banners, and rainbows are juxtaposed with dead trees, traffic cones, and crumbling, graffiti-tagged walls. In this fictional space, the qualities that initially gave the Laughing Hyena its scathing reputation— sexual promiscuity, adaptability, and female dominance— are celebrated as powerful assets rather than shameful transgressions.

By reframing the Laughing Hyena in a context of praise for her unique characteristics, this project illustrates that disrupting antagonism and hostility isn't about changing the behaviors of the slandered, but rather shifting the judgement of the slanderer.

*Prior to connoting laughing and/or crying, hysteria--from the Latin hystericus, meaning suffering from the womb--was believed to be a disorder afflicting women exclusively, causing uncontrollable emotional outbursts and sexually aggressive behavior.