This item is under embargo and not available online per the author's request. For access information, please visit http://libanswers.wustl.edu/faq/5640.
Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Visual Art
This text explores the capacity for shamed bodily materiality to narrate the complexity of healing from sexual trauma while rape culture persists. Because rape is discussed so little in public, sexual healing often takes place under a meaty layer of shame, placed on the survivor’s body. Their truth is frequently interpreted as too much/gross/ugly/unspeakable for the public, and it is simultaneously not enough to be discussed/accepted/pursued as an actual issue. This uncomfortable teeter-totter comes from the patriarchal boundaries drawn between what is privately or publicly acceptable. There are plenty of depictions of sexual violence in popular culture and the canon of art hstory, but we rarely see examples of sexual healing. unmentionables is a heartfelt, raw, and painfully true compilation of my own endeavors to understand these implications as a survivor. Much of my references come from survivors who put words to what I felt was only expressible through sculpture. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s research on post-traumatic stress disorder, Julia Kristeva’s writings on the abject, and the phallocentric taboos placed on the vulva collectively provide context for why this is so. Social norms effectively shame what is beneath our skin, what we would rather not look at it but still know is there. This relates uncomfortably to subject of rape because of how the survivor is forced to carry the weight of the traumatic event, socially and physically. Thus the wet, goopy materiality of internal anatomy forms the skin of my sculptures as they embody the sensation of wearing shame. Inspired by Simone de Beauvoir’s writing on the body as dynamic, instead of passive, my sculptures blur the line between interior and exterior, and between private and public. This renders the survivor’s truth material and impossible to ignore.
Content warning: sexual assault
Program Director's Department
Graduate School of Art
Dr. Elizabeth Childs
Grotewiel, Madeleine F., "unmentionables" (2021). Graduate School of Art Theses. ETD 154.
Available for download on Tuesday, May 10, 2022