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    Cover photo: Detail of “Sister’s Unbroken Bond,” by Debra Lott, courtesy Pyro Gallery

    Some people see ribbons and strings as tools that hold things together, that keep things from falling apart. Debra Lott sees them differently. Ribbons bind and trap. In her paintings, they wrap and tangle around women — a metaphor for silencing victims of sexual abuse. But there’s hope and healing in Lott’s work; the ribbons ensnare women, but the women take those ribbons in their hands, unraveling themselves from bondage. “They are all at that pivotal point where they are breaking free,” Lott says.

    Lott’s work is the focal point of an exhibit at Pyro Gallery. “From Silent to Resilient,” on display until October 20, captures the #MeToo movement in paint. “I wanted (the show) to be a healing process where women can come in, and as they walked through and looked, they would see something that would help them heal inside,” Lott says.

    One painting called “Sister’s Unbroken Bond” features two women. Ribbon covers one woman’s mouth, but the other woman’s mouth is unbound. “The community of survivors are there to help each other, which is something you’re seeing a lot in the media these days. In this one, her mouth is still covered by the ribbon while her sister’s is not. So she’s helping the one that is still the victim to become a survivor,” Lott says.

    Another painting called “Breaking the Silence” shows a close-up of a blonde woman’s face and a ribbon flowing away from her mouth. “I photographed all of these (women) myself, so I work from my own photographs,” Lott says. “When I photographed her, I had this ribbon tied tightly around her face, and when I went to go paint it, I couldn’t do it that way. I wanted her to be free of it.”

    Excerpts from three paintings by Debra Lott, courtesy Pyro Gallery

    A former art teacher from Florida, Lott has called Louisville home for 16 years, and has been painting women for a couple decades. Her last show at Pyro commented on the portrayal of women in popular media. When she decided to start working on the paintings in “From Silent to Resilient,” she reached out to the Family Scholar House, an organization that provides support to single parents, to see if they could put her in touch with women who would be interested in modeling. A few survivors of sexual abuse decided to participate.

    Jaydee Graham had told her story before. She’s a member of the state attorney general’s survivors’ council, which advises the attorney general’s office on the experience of victims, and a social worker at Family Scholar House. But she still had reservations about posing for Lott. “I had never ever modeled for anything ever in my life,” Graham says. “I was like, I don’t know what to expect. This is strange. But I know my heart is really passionate about this, so if I feel like it serves me, I always say yes to opportunities like this, because it’s important to bring awareness to it.” She put on a white tank top and some shorts and stepped into Lott’s studio barefoot, ready to open up. “It was actually a really empowering experience,” Graham says. “(Lott’s) gift that she has used to portray what it’s really like to be silenced and to feel silenced is so evident in the way that she painted us, and it looks just like me, which is crazy.”

    The exhibit also features works by sculptor Meg White and Lott’s daughter, artist Rachel Gibbs. Pyro Gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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