Art is a medium that taps into the emotional and mental and has the ability to create connections between one’s self and another’s. Art is also a medium that allows for its creators to reflect and comment upon human experience and all of its caveats. Art’s power and ability to evoke emotion in its viewer has lent itself to an array of causes; most recently, the Vassar Haiti Project’s recent art display.
On Wednesday, April 30, CARES, Sexual Assault Violence Prevention (SAVP), Breaking The Silence at Vassar (BTSAV) and Fem Alliance will hold their third annual art show in the AULA in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The show aims to raise awareness of sexual assault and all of its repercussions by means of a variety of media, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, quilts, live spoken-word poetry and song. Professor of English Molly McGlennen will kick the event off with a few words about the show and the power of its content.
Art has the power to affect not only its creators but also its viewers. “I immediately think of Frida Kahlo, who experienced a number of traumatic events in her lifetime, including a crippling bus accident as well as an unhealthy relationship with her husband, Diego Rivera,” stated Kristina Arike ’14 of CARES in an email. “Her self-portraits are moving, I think, because they register the trauma she felt in such a palpable way. Some of them are difficult to look at, yet beautiful at the same time, and I think that they are important to consider when talking about historical precedents of art created in response to trauma.”
And by compiling works of art that raise awareness of sexual assault, the art show holds power beyond even each work’s artistic value. “I think that this event is an opportunity for those affected by interpersonal violence to engage with the issue at whatever level they feel most comfortable,” stated Arike. “We invite the campus community to participate by submitting art works as well as performing during the open-mic portion, but we also hope that people come to the event to look, to listen, and to be open to the powerful healing capacity that creative outlets can have.”
The CARES Art Show seeks to raise an understanding of recovery and experience of personal violation by means of artistic forms. The show will include an array of artistic media, as well as an open-mic session for poets wishing to speak upon the subject of sexual assault and personal violation.
“By including a diversity of art forms, both visual and performed, the event can include anyone who considers themselves to be an artist,” said CARES buddy Essie Asan ’17. “That also means that our event appeals to anyone—from lovers of poetry to art connoisseurs. What is most important is that the larger Vassar community becomes aware of this huge issue that remains in the dark to most.”
Due to its expressive nature, art is an ideal medium by which the organizers of the CARES Art Show have chosen to raise awareness. “Art allows for the expression of the ineffable/unspeakable, an adjective often applied to interpersonal violence and other trauma,” continued Arike. “To create art is a way to work through certain feelings and memories in such a way that does not disempowered the survivor, as other responses to sexual assault sometimes do, but rather the survivor is empowered to interpret as well as to present whatever they wish howsoever they wish.”
The organizers of the event seek to maintain an open and inclusive environment, in which they will offer refreshments, as well as the opportunity for attendees to create art themselves by adding squares to BTSAV’s quilt project. “The CARES Art Show is a great way to reach a lot of people in a medium that is highly accessible,” said Sara Cooley ’15 of Fem Alliance. “Not everyone, even if they have experience with sexual assault, can relate to articles that are steeped in feminist academia. Those are obviously very important, but art is a good way to bring the issue to people who would otherwise not understand or be interested in learning about these issues.”
The open and inclusive nature of the fair incites greater opportunity for awareness and understanding of the issue to spread. It also draws a very real and stigmatized issue into light. “I would like those with no experience with sexual assault to understand that it is a prevalent and pervasive issue both on and off campus, and that, looking at statistics, if they think they are not affected by it, they probably are,” Cooley stated.
Furthermore, art has the ability to inspire, and it is that very facet that will ultimately result in getting people talking. “I would like everyone to feel inspired to get involved with anti-sexual assault activist projects on this campus. Art is an excellent outlet for survivors because, as I mentioned, anti-sexual assault academia is not a field that everyone is comfortable working in, and not everyone has the tools to write or respond to feminist analyses of rape culture,” Cooley continued. “Art in some form is something many people can do, and it is a medium that can create community and facilitate healing.”
The event will ultimately be a healing and therapeutic one. Gianna Constantine ’15 of CARES wrote in an emailed statement, “Art is a cathartic process, regardless of whether the end result matches the original intention. I would love for the Art Show to encourage survivors to explore making art as a tool for recovery.”
Artists featured in the show were given a huge amount of liberties in rendering their experiences. Constantine stated, “Addressing trauma directly can be a near-impossible task for some survivors. Art provides media in which survivors are free to be as vague or as specific as they feel they need to be.”