Date of Award

Spring 5-16-2014

Author's School

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts

Author Department/Program

Graduate School of Art

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art

Degree Type



We have many tools available to impede violence against women. Legislative circles, educational systems, and advocacy groups all work tirelessly to eradicate these heinous crimes and serve the victims of abuse. However violence against women is still described as “‘the most pervasive human rights challenge’ in the world today”.1

For some it can be difficult to view socially engaged art making as an essential component of women’s advocacy compared to immediate housing, legal counsel, help hotlines, and the education of women. Blurring the lines between activism and art history, this relatively new art form is often embraced by marginalized societies who have utilized it to forge alternative pathways with the labyrinth of our cultural constructs.

Community based artworks counteract these systems and have crucial influence on how we perceive violence against women and therefore how we re-act in response. This thesis is an examination of the epidemic of violence against women, specifically it’s intersection with rurality and how a socially engaged art practice can act as a communal vehicle for advocacy, intervention, and healing.


English (en)

Program Director

Patricia Olynyk

Program Director's Department

Graduate School of Art

Committee Member

Monika Weiss

Committee Member

Monika Weiss

Committee Member

Jen Colten Schmidt

Committee Member

Heather Bennett

Artist's Statement

Art is inherently investigative. It empowers us to critically examine our world, our culture, and even ourselves. As an artist and human being I have become increasingly alarmed by the growing epidemic of violence against women, especially interpersonal violence. In response, I utilize artistic modes of systems analysis and social engagement to investigate how this violence is perpetuated and to strategize with community partners to determine how to effectively confront this type of violence.

Each iteration of this work requires vast amounts of research to better understand the nature of violence and how our institutions, both nationally and personally, either enable or oppose the advancement of women’s wellbeing. For example, while most people believe domestic violence occurs more often in poor, urban areas, studies show it actually occurs more frequently (per capita) and more violently in rural settings. In response to this discovery, I partnered with two women’s advocacy groups in rural Missouri to develop The Yarn Campaign in order to raise awareness for Domestic Violence Awareness month. We worked with the city governments, businesses, and parks to determine ten locations to install yarn bombs. These installations were colorful advertisements which raised awareness concerning the issue, gave visibility to the advocacy groups and provided information for women in the community who may be victims of violence. The Yarn Campaign not only successfully connected victims with an advocacy group, but forged new paths of communication between the cities and these organizations. It also became such a powerful tool within the community that the organizations will be continuing the project on their own in 2014.

Another work, A Study of Domestic Violence in Missouri, was developed in response to research concerning the number of intimate parter murders which take place in Missouri each year. Little data exists concerning these murders, and many times the information is lumped in with homicide or assault data and not recognized in it’s own category. This combined with sensationalized media which doesn’t frame these stories as a pattern, but as isolated incidents, leads to community and institutional ignorance about the murder of women. For A Study of Domestic Violence in Missouri, I investigated any reported homicides with female victims and male aggressors in 2012 in Missouri, then memorialized each date on a found cross stitch. These twenty eight cross stitches, when displayed together, act as both a domestically themed, empathetic memorial and as a legitimate data set concerning intimate partner violence.

Studies continue to reveal women in abusive relationships experience episodes of brutality far more frequently than previously thought in academic and legislative circles. Our systems of gathering data are not only inaccurate but blatantly disregard the people group it aims to serve, resulting in the perpetuation of these crimes. As an artist I feel it is my responsibility to utilize whatever tools are available in order to create awareness, foster community dialogue, and forge contemporary processes which address violence.

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