Memento Mori

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The Last Supper: Aileen Wuornos

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From the very beginning Aileen Wuornos’ life was marked by sexual violence.

Wuornos’ father, whom she never met, was convicted of sexual assault of children and hung himself in prison. Before she turned four Wuornos was abandoned by her mother and left to be raised by her maternal grandparents. Her grandfather beat and sexually assaulted her. She was pregnant by 13, having been raped by a friend of her grandfather. By 15 she was working as a prostitute and living in the woods.

Wuornos killed 7 men while working as a prostitute over the course of roughly a year, from 1989-1990. All of her victims were clients. In all cases, Wuornos maintained that she had acted in self defence. Wuornos was executed for her crimes on Oct 2, 2002.

Wuornos declined a last meal. She drank black coffee before being put to death by lethal injection.

Wuornos’ final words were: "Yes, I would just like to say I'm sailing with the rock, and I'll be back, like Independence Day, with Jesus. June 6, like the movie. Big mother ship and all, I'll be back, I'll be back." This word salad of a last statement seems reflective of her mental state towards the end; in her final days she complained frequently about her food being tainted and her head being crushed by “sonic pressure”.

In this composition Wuornos’ coffee beans spill across the table, their precarious placement and the tipped cup reminders of the fragility of life. I have also included 3 dead roses. Flower petals are often interpreted as representing female sexuality; with each rose I placed a reminder of the sexual violence that punctuated Wuornos’ life. The flower on the right contains a dead baby mouse, a reminder of Wuornos’ childhood rape and of the baby she gave up for adoption at 13. The flower on the top contains 3 decaying human teeth, a reference to the “vagina dentata“ folk story that is very much informed by a male fear of castration and of female sexual agency. Finally, the last flower contains the severed penis and testicles of an adult rat, revisiting the underlying metaphor of fear of castration in a rather less subtle manner.