As a silent epidemic, sexual violence is America’s elephant in the room. One is hard pressed to find a citizen unaffected by such crimes. Certainly this topic is not a common one within visual art, nor a student art show for that matter.
The predominant silence-or likewise apprehension-to sexual violence is what propelled students at Broadview Entertainment Arts University (BEAU) to create their own collaborative statement. Their effort entitled, “Envision: Art Addressing Sexual Violence,” is exemplary in its efforts to address a problem so pervasive, yet subverted.
The art show is an assortment of many mediums, ranging from posters, to more traditional methods such as photography and charcoal. What unites these disparate artworks is an embracement of the underlying theme of violence and the emotional destruction inflicted on its victims. Many of the posters included in the show artfully combine text and image to maximize their effect on viewers. Likewise, the show includes more abstract experiments with the topic, including a series of photographs entitled Feminine Light Force, which displays neon alterations of light in feminine configurations.
While much of the artwork depicts candid truths about the subject-specifically the savagery of rape-other works serve as abstract renderings of the emotional aftermath of sexual violence.
The show embodies the collaborative efforts of students and BEAU faculty. Beginning last winter, Broadview began the tradition of quarterly student exhibitions. “Envision,” with its impressive intellectual scope, marks the first themed exhibition for the University. BEAU faculty wanted students to find a social issue that was educationally driven-allowing students to conduct research as part of the artistic process-rather than an afterthought. Erin Coleman Cruz, Chair of Graphic Design at Broadview states, “the goal was to get students to recognize their own role in communicating difficult topics to their community.” In addition to curating the show’s content, Coleman-Cruz ran three workshops during the quarter to help students prepare for the show. In the roughly ten weeks of preparation, Coleman-Cruz excitedly watched as students got more involved in the process.
Indeed, their work paid off, as various prizes were given to selected categories determined by staff and faculty judges . Among the winners were Trey Williams and Joe Morenco, who took top honors within the “Poster Design” category. Christina Bailey’s postcard-sized artworks were selected as the best in the “Visual Art” category, and a PSA video on sexual violence was labeled “Best Group Project.”
In a thought-provoking, and well-organized exhibition, the students at BEAU have not only included their own visions, but have also left considerable room for audience interaction. Many opportunities for engagement are scattered throughout the show, including a drawing wall, a chalk board, mirrors and an assortment of helpful resources and brochures on how to address sexual violence. The considerable student effort of this show holds high merit, for finding creative ways to address an often overwhelming topic is indeed a difficult task.
Envision, an exhibition of work by students of Broadview Entertainment Arts University (BEAU) addressing sexual violence is at the Kaye Myhre Gallery on the 3rd floor of the BEAU through July 12.
Scotti Hill is a lawyer, art critic, and curator based in Salt Lake City. She has contributed to various publications and serves as an adjunct professor of art history at Westminster College. She has a Master’s Degree in art history from the University of Utah.