ST. LOUIS — Bunny Burson spent the night of the 2016 presidential election at Hillary Clinton’s watch party in the Javits Center. She stared up at the center’s glass ceiling with her husband and two daughters until 2 a.m., waiting for confetti to rain down on the country’s first female president and her supporters.
As the election results rolled in, it became clear that Clinton would not shatter the ceiling that night. The mood grew darker in the Javits Center. The confetti never came.
“Hillary Clinton has been a beacon for me really as a woman,” Burson told CNN. “That’s really where I thought that this was going, to be the election of all elections to inspire women.”
So Burson, an artist based in St. Louis, took what she called an overwhelming emptiness and turned it into something positive. She channeled her emotions into her art.
Burson created a snowglobe within the window of Bruno David Gallery in St. Louis. Inside the window, rising and falling 24 hours a day, is the same confetti from election night in the convention center. And written on the outside, the exhibit’s borrowed title from one of Maya Angelou’s most iconic and empowering poems: “And Still I Rise.”
200 pounds of confetti
After the watch party, Burson set off on a mission. She wanted to find the actual confetti that had been loaded into the cannons that night.
It wasn’t the first time Burson used symbols of election disappointment in her work. After Al Gore’s 2000 election loss, she covered canvases with hanging chads folded into the shape of waves, turning the infamous ballot fragments that some thought cost Gore the election into art.
So when she needed a new medium to express her reaction this time around, she said the untouched 2016 confetti seemed like a natural progression.
It took about two weeks to track down the real confetti. Burson had knocked on doors and made phone calls for Clinton’s campaign, so she started asking around to the other volunteers. One person put her in touch with another until she found the right company in Chicago.
They had 200 pounds of the confetti from the cannons, packaged up in cardboard boxes and plastic bags. The company wrote a letter of verification to ensure it was the real deal.
Burson bought it all.
Inspiring young women
“And Still I Rise” was chosen as an inspirational title from a focus group of young women, the group that Burson wanted to be motivated by her art.
“I want women and little girls to just don’t feel defeated by this,” Burson said. “Keep going. Keep fighting.”
With the rest of the 200 pounds that isn’t in the main snowglobe, she’s going to create a series of miniature versions of the exhibit. Smaller “And Still I Rise” globes with the same confetti inside will be sold inside Planned Parenthoods in St. Louis, and all proceeds will go back to the organization.
“I just feel whether it’s running for office or breaking their own glass ceiling in some other way, now’s a time not to give up,” Burson said.
Since the exhibit was installed in May, Burson has received countless responses from women inspired by her work.
“I never dreamed it was going to be this exciting and this exhilarating,” she said. “I want that flame to stay alive among women.”