Originally published in Castine Patriot, June 6, 2019
Exhibit breaks silence on domestic violence
‘You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors’
Patrisha McLean created the multimedia exhibit “Finding Our Voices” after keeping silent on her own abuse for 29 years.
by Anne Berleant
“Finding Our Voices,” a wrenching exhibit on domestic violence, held an opening reception at The ANNEX Sunday, May 26. Created by Patrisha McLean, whose ties to Castine run deep, the show tells the story of domestic violence through photographs, writings and victims’ own voices.
At the opening reception, platters of catered hors d’ouevres, sparkling beverages and cake, and the well-heeled attendees, provided a telling contrast to the stories told in each photograph.
“You never really know what’s going on behind closed doors,” McLean said. “That’s the point of the exhibit.”
McLean, a photographer, divorced her singer/songwriter husband Don McLean in 2016 after his arrest on domestic violence charges stemming from an incident in their Camden home. But McLean said it was only after meeting with the Next Step Domestic Violence Project in Ellsworth that she was able to recognize and accept that she had been a victim of physical and emotional abuse throughout her marriage.
“I had kept quiet for 29 years,” she said.
After her husband’s arrest, McLean said women she knew in her everyday life, such as her hairdresser, her dental hygienist, neighbors and acquaintances—“women who seemed to have a wonderful life,” she said—spoke to her of their own experiences of domestic abuse. Their stories sparked the idea for Finding Our Voices: Breaking the Silence of Domestic Violence.
“As a society, it’s something we need to address,” McLean said. “We feel alone and we feel ashamed. But it’s not our shame.”
A small photo included in the exhibit shows the McLeans in Castine in the 1980s with their neighbors’ children. Draw closer and dark bruises up and down McLean’s leg become visible. McLean also includes her own story among the dozen women whose photos filled the gallery walls. Beside each photograph, a print of the Power and Control Wheel—a tool used to explain the different ways an abusive partner can manipulate a relationship—is annotated with the woman’s story.
Viewers can also hear the personal stories of the women, through their cell phones.
“The way it’s presented makes it really accessible,” Ruthie Eaton said. “I think it’s important that this is out in the light of day to see and hear first hand. It all comes down to power distilled from fear. How many women does this represent in Maine?”
Finding Our Voices next travels to North Haven, Isleboro and Rockland before a three-month stay at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in Augusta this fall. McLean will also present a slideshow and talk on the exhibit at Windham Prison and, on July 30, at Witherle Memorial Library in Castine. More information can be found at findingourvoices.net. Information on and help for domestic violence can be found at Next Step, nextstepdvproject.org; its crisis hotline is 1-800-315-5579.
Editor’s note: This story has been corrected on June 10 to properly identify the children mentioned in McLean’s family photograph included in the exhibit. We apologize for the misidentification in the original post of the story.