Grace Shahan

Grace Shahan (American, b. 1998) is a Chattanooga-based sculptor that is invested in exploring nostalgia and pain. Shahan will receive a BFA in Sculpture from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in 2022. She mainly practices installations and performances that demonstrate uncanny nostalgia by gathering found materials from thrifts stores, garages, and estate sales, building voyeuristic worlds to invoke the feeling of a distant memory. She projects her own experiences onto these discarded objects as a way for her to discuss the unpleasantries of memories, invoking conversations about unspoken topics. In her latest video installation, Precious Angels, 2022, she interrogates the motivation of purity culture. She examines how it is grooming young women to be obedient and accept any man presented to them—indoctrinating submissive to the church and assuming their roles of solely being wives then mothers.

Artist Statement:

I grew up and was a well-respected member of the church at First Farragut United Methodist, and I attended there for my childhood and adolescence. My life while attending reflected around this community’s guidance and approval, and I devoted myself to this church in complete blind faith. Growing up in this environment, there was a silent agreement between the youth and elders to know your role and purpose for the church. It became clear that my position was to serve others, first for the church and, in the future, my husband. Later in life, this fantasy quickly became a nightmare, a haunting reality even now I struggle to live in. This project questions the practice of purity, critiquing the belief of a women's value based on her chaste, obedient, and submissive ability. The church does not teach women about consent, or consent within a marriage, sex, or sexual relationship. With virginity being ingrained as a commodity, it becomes a hyper-fetishization about domination and ownership over women. This short film I created reflects my experience with purity, revealing the outcome of failing these unrealistic expectations.