It’s disarming to see a headline so similar to what I experienced less than two years ago. The removal and vandalization of Claire Mazius’s photos is not an isolated event and reflects a greater level of intolerance on this campus. It seems that every time challenging art is displayed, it becomes subject to narrow-minded views and violence against women and queer individuals.
In fall of 2017, I took a class titled Printmaking as Social Action. I produced and hung prints focused on gender dysphoria around campus in various academic buildings. When these prints were immediately removed by unknown culprits, I came to TKS to talk about my story. I wanted to open a dialogue about what was happening and why.
Instead of creating a dialogue, however, events following the article got worse. The next series of prints I created were removed again, and, this time, vandalized.
This series was awkward, depicting two individuals nude in bed, one spread eagle toward the viewer. Though I took imagery from several places, the faces of the individuals were ultimately modeled after my partner and I, with my vulva being the one on display. When I walked around campus to gauge how many of these prints remained the day after hanging, I found one with the vulva hastily removed with scissors. My vulva.
The experience upon viewing that vandalism was entirely visceral. My body was shaking, I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t believe someone would react so as to physically mutilate my body and leave the castrated image up for all to see.
Vandalizing images of the female or queer body are not the actions of some idiot, as much as I wish it were that simple. This type of action is an act of violence, regardless of intent. It makes one feel unsafe. At the time that this happened I tried to find a resolution, but found myself incapable of remaining mentally stable as I pressed forward. I made a report with campus safety, carefully described the events and then put it out of my mind. I wish I could have done more then, which is why I’m writing this now.
We need to do more. One of the purposes of art is to challenge the status-quo and question the viewer’s assumptions. I believe the greater intent of Knox is to challenge our preconceived ideas and grow. The reaction to challenging ideas cannot be anger or violence. This is why women and queer individuals are targeted, and why trans women of color are murdered at astonishing rates.
Lack of cameras are why nobody was caught vandalizing my work, and why nobody has been caught now. But we shouldn’t need to rely on surveillance to raise a critically conscious and trustworthy student body. We need to focus on developing a stronger community and maintaining dialogues. It’s also important that the administration recognizes the gravity of these events and condemns them. This is unacceptable. We can do better, Knox.
Ruth Holmes ‘18
Art Administrative Assistant, SC&A