It is sexual assault awareness month and many artists around the world are contributing to this issue by using their platform and talents to educate people about consent and violence. It’s funny because art was a form of media that subtly promoted rape and violence against women, especially during the Renaissance period! I remember walking into a museum in Florence, Italy and the first thing the guide showed us was a sculpture of a woman being raped by a man, who was on top of another man (supposedly her husband) and I couldn't help but wonder why someone made art out of it! It was The Rape of Sabines by Giambologna. A few years later I learned about other paintings like Rape of Europa by Titian and Primavera by Sandro Botticelli that also glorified sexual assault too.
However, times have changed and with them so have the message and medium. Here are a few artists I found that condemn acts of sexual violence and proudly voice their opinions through their art.
In 1977, Lacy showcased a series of performances and live public installations of her work as well as other artists she collaborated with, over a period of three weeks. Out of all her works, the focus was a set of two installed yellow maps of LA in the mall underneath City Hall. One of them had stamps labeled “rape” in red to mark all the places in LA (which at the time was known as the capital for sex crimes in the country) that reported rape and other acts of sexual violence. The other showed hotlines and resource centers in the city.
Yoko ono first performed the cut piece in 1964 when she wore a suit and asked her audience to take a pair of scissors that was placed beside her and cut a piece of the fabric. Some were hesitant and cut tiny bits from around the hem and some were bold enough to cut large patches from the blouse and even her bra straps. By inviting her audience, she is taking control and “letting them” cut her clothes. Some may think of it as a passive act, that wasn’t directly intended to address assault, rather an objectification and subordination of women in art.
Jenny and Nondumiso made a public installation of 3,600 pairs of used underwear and clipped it on approximately 4,000 feet of washing line in the streets of Johannesburg. Every one of the underwear belongs to women that survived rape and the number of pairs represents an estimate of the number of rapes that happened on a daily basis in South Africa.
This year Denim Day is on the 28th of April that is a day that raises awareness about sexual assault. Make sure you wear them to show your support!
Here are a few resources that could help a survivor –