On view at the Calvin College Center Art Gallery March 26 — April 28: Mere Objects:
Participatory art honoring people who have experienced sexual violence
Please join for an artist’s talk and reception: April 9, 7 p.m. in the Bytwerk Theatre, followed by a reception at the Center Art Gallery.
Artist Sarah Jane brings attention to the serious issue of sexual violence with a poignant installation of suspended glass globes, each filled with evocative materials obtained from people who have experienced sexual violence. The artist invites participants to choose objects to represent themselves and their stories, and viewers to bear witness and share in her hope for healing and a safer world.
Artist’s Statement: Mere Objects
Sexual violence is often taboo. In private, it bears a shroud of whispered rumors and family secrets. In public, the discourse circles round in endless statistics and worn stereotypes. But for those of us who have experienced it, the reality is far more painful, complex and all-consuming.
Sexual violence encompasses the child violated by a beloved grandparent; the teenager abused by a boyfriend; the faithful altar boy assaulted by his priest. It includes the wife whose husband won’t take no for an answer; the disabled person victimized by a caregiver; the young woman raped by a coworker.
These are no hypothetical situations; they are real stories from people in this project.
I reached out online and in person, inviting participants to choose objects to represent themselves and their stories. It is a concrete act of reclaiming agency and bearing witness to this important truth: that sexual violence may affect us deeply, but it can never define us.
The objects people choose are creative, evocative, and diverse. They include joy-filled items like brilliant gemstones, honeymoon sand, and tiny works of art; alongside deeply painful memories like clothing worn during an assault, and ashes from photographs of a rapist.
The objects are suspended in tiny round bottles and bathed in light, suggesting wholeness and transparency. And yet they are fragile; after all, these are not easy stories to tell, or to hear.
They are not easy, but telling and hearing opens up the possibility of healing. This is as true for individuals as it is for whole communities. I invite you to bear witness to these stories and symbols of people affected by sexual violence, and to share in our hope for healing and for a safer world to come.
Sarah Jane, October 2017
New participants are always welcome, and objects will be added throughout the course of the exhibition. You are invited to send objects for inclusion in a sealed envelope to “Mere Objects,” c/o Calvin College Department of Art and Art History, 3201 Burton St SE, Grand Rapids, 49546
This exhibition is organized by professor Jennifer Steensma Hoag and SAPT advisor, Ashley Kelver. “Mere Objects” is sponsored by the Sexual Assault Prevention Team of Calvin College, Calvin College Residence Life, Calvin College Sexuality Series, Safe Church Ministry, Calvin College Sociology & Social Work Department, Hope College STEP Students Teaching and Empowering Peers, and the Calvin College Center for Counseling and Wellness, in partnership with the The Calvin College Department of Art & Art History.
To learn more, please visit mereobjects.org or the Center Art Gallery site.