Nips and Tucks for the SoulEve Ensler and ABC Carpet to help women realize the beauty within

VOLUME 3, ISSUE 348 | Nov. 25 – Dec. 01, 2004

Nips and Tucks for the Soul

Eve Ensler and ABC Carpet to help women realize the beauty within

It was like walking into another world—or rather many worlds colliding and converging at the ABC Carpet and Home launch party for their new “Love Your Tree” installation. An Indian-inspired Red Tent, photographs of women of all sizes and cultures, and speakers ranging from Isabella Rossellini and Eve Ensler to women’s health workers, were all part of the packed event celebrating Ensler’s new play on Broadway, “The Good Body” and the corresponding art installment at 19th Street and Broadway last Thursday, November 18.

Then, of course, there was the tree. “Not only is this tree the most beautiful thing in the world,” Ensler said before going on to explain the significance of the enormous handmade creation towering over the attendees with it’s velvet strips of cloth. “I mean it was created with so much love.”

In “The Good Body,” Ensler’s sequel to her enormously successful work, “The Vagina Monologues,” the playwright travels the world talking with women of all backgrounds and cultures about their body issues. During a point of despair and self-hatred, Ensler described going to Africa and meeting “Leah” who offered her a positive way to embrace the female body image.

Standing in front of the launch party invitees, Ensler recounted the chance meeting. “ ‘Like my body? Like my body? I love my body. God gave me this body,’ ” Ensler recalled Leah saying. “ ‘Eve, look at that tree? Do you like that tree? Do you say that tree isn’t pretty because it doesn’t look like that tree? Do you say that tree is ugly because it doesn’t look like that tree? You’re a tree. I’m a tree. You’ve got to love your body, child, you’ve got to love your tree. Love your tree.’ ”

The installation, produced by ABC Carpet and Home’s CEO and Creative Director Paulette Cole, as a space for women of all races, sizes and shapers to embrace their bodies, is comprised of various components including the tree, the red tent, artwork from 16 female artists, plus on ongoing roster of speakers and performances.

The actress Celia Finkelstein, who attended the opening and helped to produce last year’s “V-Day,” a day dedicated to the vagina, sees Ensler’s new play and the installation as another tool in the fight against stopping violence against women and children. “I think that, in general, women have been taught to believe that they are something less then and not worthy of taking up space,” said the 25-year-old. “But we are worthy of a space and a voice.”

Creating a space and a sanctuary for women is exactly the purpose of the Red Tent, which was conceived and designed by Cole for the Omega Women and Power Conference held in New York early this year and attended by over 2,000 women.

“The Red Tent is a space for women to create community with other women and open a dialogue about all kinds of issues,” said Cole. “It is a common ground for women with similar values, meant to broaden a platform for women to share ideas and even pain and to introduce women to the idea of a collective healing space that is both safe and sacred.”

In designing the tent, Cole sought to establish a place where women could leave behind societal pressures, like fashion consciousness and needing to get the perfect body. To enter the candle-lit, pillow-laden sanctuary, shoes must be removed. But it is worth the trouble. Inside are soft carpets, and softer cushions, beautiful lanterns and smiling Buddhas.

“Use this as a revolutionary space,” said Ensler. “As a space to recharge your engine, to form resistance, to network, to sleep, to rest,” adding, “we really need community now more than we’ve ever have before.”

The art adorning the walls is equally thought provoking. From a series of vagina photographs to young artists Deana Lawson’s “Mom in the Kitchen,” a daring portrait of her mother letting it all hang out, the show will likely generate some strong reactions.

Some of the speakers also clearly aim to elicit candid responses. Amongst the speakers are Adrienne Ressler of The Renfrew Center Foundation, who will confront the growing epidemic of eating disorders, the Urban Bush Women dance troupe, and Dr. Mona Lisa Schultz, author of the “The New Feminine Brain.”

The entire presentation is meant to create a new world “where women don’t merely survive but thrive,” explained Sil Reynolds, who organized the roster of speakers. “If women were not obsessed with the shape and size of their body they would have the courage and the strength to speak truth to power and become full members of a global society.”

“I’ve been working with V-Day now for the last seven years to stop externalized violence toward women,” Ensler said. “[But] when we stop internalized self-hatred and self-mutilation and desecration … when those two things happen, women will come into their rightful power on this planet and there will be balance again and the feminine will return and we will be in another place.”

The ABC Carpet & Home “Love Your Tree” installation at 888 Broadway is open through January 16, Mon.- Sat., 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sun., 11 a.m.-7 p.m. A full list of performers, speakers and other events can be found online at loveyourtree.org.

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