Yes/No: Portraits of Consent in Texts

A series of watercolor portraits of the words “yes” and “no” handpicked from literary and academic texts at pivotal moments in the narrative. 


“No. 282 and No, 234 from Dorthy Allison’s Bastard out of Carolina 
Left: watercolor and saliva on paper, 8” X 5”
Right: watercolor on paper, 8” x 5”

This ongoing body of work analyzes how the etymology of the words “yes” and “no” have impacted our understanding of consent. By examining how these words have been mobilized in a variety of literary and academic texts, I am creating a multifaceted portrait of consent within both sexual and non-sexual contexts. 

I select each word from a variety of texts—based on my own interests and recommendations from colleagues, friends, and strangers—and read each book, essay, or article carefully. As I read, I am searching for moments in the text where a “yes” or a “no” significantly impacts the narrative. These utterances could be verbalized through dialogue, expressed as internal thought, or utilized pragmatically in an academic essay.  

Each portrait is painted from direct observation of the word on the printed page. Visual elements such as color, contrast, and emphasis vary in accordance with the context of the narrative and emotional tone of the text overall. All paintings that depict “yes’s” and “no’s” that are spoken aloud in verbal dialogue are coated in saliva. 

I approach this project with the following questions in mind:
-Is a “yes” or “no” interpreted differently when it is uttered by a marginalized person?
-Who has the ability to be respected and heard when accepting or refusing something? 
-In situations where consent hangs in the balance, how do power dynamics shift in relationship to a protagonists’ subjectivity? 

Do YOU have a literary or academic text that you think I should add to this series?

I would love to know your suggestions! I am looking for texts where a “yes” or a “no” plays an important role in the narrative. See the examples below of texts that I am currently working with.


Submit your Yes/No text suggestion using this form

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