Words and photography by Stacie Huckeba
A friend of mine gave me this pair of Ivanka Trump stilettos at a brunch we both attended. She didn’t want to sell them or give them to a thrift store, but she didn’t want to keep them either. Honestly, I didn’t know what to do with them myself.
That evening, I sat looking at the shoes, at all of the rhinestones and gold, taking in the ornate design and thought, Man, there’s nowhere really to wear these. Not only were they extravagant, but they were small, a size 7, much too small for me or anyone I knew. I ran my finger down the impressed name, Ivanka Trump, and then I flipped them over and saw the little “Made in China” stickers on them.
And that is when I realized that these ostentatious shoes perfectly summed up for me how I felt about this administration. It is designed to fit only a very narrow margin of society. As far as I could tell, nobody I knew could wear the sparkly shoes.
So I decided to take them out to my friends and neighbors to see if “the shoe fit,” so to speak. What I realized in the process was so much more powerful than that.
I shot forty-four portraits over the course of eight days, and the outcome encompasses almost every conceivable blended family, mixed race, ethnic background, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, lifestyle, and culture. Amazingly, the farthest I drove was eleven miles from my home, and even more amazing was that all of them are no more than one degree of separation from me. These are all people I know or that they know.
A short essay taken from my interviews with these people will accompany each image, and the stories are as much a part of this exhibit as the photographs. There was Marga, a transgender woman who is retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. She is an activist who jokes that she is not a paid protester but wants to know where to sign up. Luma is an Iraqi refugee who has lived here for sixteen years. Even as a single Muslim mother of two she is quite the feminist.
I met two therapists who both have concerns for the increased thoughts of self-harm to their ethnically, sexually, and financially challenged clients. Irina is a Russian refugee and sweetly wonders why all of the “hatefulness” is even necessary. Bo is a disabled homeless man who is actually a Trump supporter but is flatly against his immigration stance.
Margaret is a high school teacher who wrote me an entire essay. Marvin I met when he stopped to help me with a flat tire. He is a fast-food worker who wants to break out of the cycle of poverty. Fongchong was adopted from China and is not afraid of the future at all. Bob is the great-grandson of Polish immigrants who came into this country via Ellis Island. And there are so many more . . .
Forty-four portraits with forty-four unique stories; stories of hope, patriotism, and freedom. When you think about the fact that this much diversity and culture is only eleven short miles from my home here in East Nashville (in the middle of red-state Tennessee no less), just imagine what that speaks to the vast fabric that makes up this already great country.
This Shoe Doesn’t Fit is on view at Art & Invention Gallery on April 9 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.artandinvention.com. See more of Stacie Huckeba’s art at www.staciehuckeba.com.
The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Nashville Arts Magazine.