TW: sexual assault and violence
If you know me you probably know that I’m currently working to earn my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art with a focus in Photography. Art is my life, so it’s no surprise that it’s become the biggest tool to help me through any instances of pain I have had to deal with. All of my work for the past four years has surrounded my process of growth from various instances of assault and rape that I have unfairly been subjected to. I’m extremely grateful for the privilege I have to speak so openly about what has occurred to me as an able-bodied cis-gender white woman. I understand that many people do not have the ability to freely discuss the violence they have faced, as minority identity groups are often subjected to violence simply for being open about their pain. While this topic is incredibly difficult for many to discuss, displaying my emotions through visuals has helped me come such a long way from the self-hatred and anguish I felt for so many years following my first assault. When I was at a loss for words as to how I could describe the disgust that my assault caused me to feel for my own body, I turned to photography to capture the ways my mind contorted my flesh. I soon graduated to utilizing photography as a tool to reclaim my body, making images that depict my skin and bones as abstract landscapes. I utilized my artistic inclinations to desexualize my body on my own terms, making me realize that I am not defined by the actions of selfish men from the past. I realized that art was the only way I could truly obtain full autonomy over my physical form. Art soon became my therapy, and I hope that Tulane can offer a space for people of all identities to explore art in this way as well.
Sophomore Sophi Tomisulo’s “Masked Violence” showcase does exactly that. For the past few months, Tomisulo has been recruiting artists and writers from the Tulane and Loyola communities for her exhibit which will be displayed in room 210 of the LBC from March 14th-20th. Masked Violence is described as a collective art exhibition aiming to highlight the sexual violence that has occurred at Tulane during the Pandemic and beyond. Tomisulo was awarded a research grant to help fund student artists in their creations, ensuring that finances not be a barrier for any student who desired to create pieces regarding their experiences. The exhibition features over 20 submissions, including everything from poetry and photography to sculpture and moving letters written by survivors. Tomisulo went above and beyond, decorating the space in comforting lighting, and sharing resources from SAPHE, Tulane’s student-run Sexual Aggression Peer Hotline & Education service, for anyone who might need it after viewing the work. The exhibition offers a safe space for people of all identities to be honest about the impact of sexual violence on their lives, and is truly worth the visit.
Healing from sexual violence is an extremely difficult, painful, and winding road. Each survivor handles trauma in extremely unique ways, and there really is never one way to move on from the horrors of SA. That being said, art and literature are extremely powerful tools many survivors utilize to grow from their experiences. Exhibitions like Sophi’s make genuine change in our community to help survivors feel safe on campus as well as make steps towards ending ever present tolerance for sexual violence on campus. While art and literature cannot completely stop sexual violence, they are powerful ways for survivors to gain back freedom of their bodies, as well as shine a light on the issue. If you have a chance, I implore you to visit the exhibition in the LBC. Furthermore, if you ever feel unsure of how to unpack any feelings you might have towards your own trauma, pick up a paintbrush, camera, or laptop and begin to create.
Cover photo: Magdalena Saliba
Magdalena is a staff writer for Sex and the Crescent City, as well as a member of the photo and graphic design teams. She’s a sophomore double majoring in Art History and Studio Art. She loves shopping for cool pants, watching The Sopranos over and over again, and making pasta from scratch.