Clemson artist uses embroidered bras to tell #MeToo stories
ANDERSON, S.C. (AP) — On the first day of classes in August, art professor David Detrich told his intermediate sculpture students at Clemson University to create pieces around the theme “boundary.”
There were no size or material limitations.
Senior Geneva Hutchinson decided to tell a story with bras.
She took a clothesline and clothespins to Trustee Park in the middle of campus and hung up 10 bras of different sizes and colors. Each was embroidered with a phrase about sexual assault.
“When I was thinking about the word boundary, I was thinking about a physical boundary,” she said. “By someone being sexually assaulted, a boundary is broken and violated because I said, ‘No,’ and you broke that boundary. At the same time, when we say, ‘Me too,’ we are breaking a boundary in another way.”
The phrases Hutchinson embroidered were excerpts from stories people sent her for a previous art piece.
“What were you wearing?”
“I told him no.”
“He grabbed my thighs.”
“We loved each other.”
“I’m sorry mom.”
“What did you do?”
“From a distance, it just looks like bras on a clothesline, and maybe they are kind of cute and fashionable,” said Hutchinson, who is from Blacksburg, Virginia. “Then you get closer and see embroidery, which is very trendy right now, so you are like ‘that’s cute.’ Then you read it and have this, ‘Oh wow’ moment.”
Hutchinson kept the bras hung up on campus for about an hour Monday and answered questions from professors, students and other curious passersby. Once the installation was taken down, she moved a smaller set of six bras to the Lee Hall art building to display.
The phrases on the bras were not just from secondhand stories, but some also reflected Hutchinson’s own experience.
In high school, someone tried to blackmail her and force her into having sex.
“I didn’t actually realize what had happened to me was sexual assault until the Me Too movement started and I started reading other women’s stories and realized, ‘Me too,’” she said. “This has happened to me and tons of my friends.”
For Hutchinson, art has been a healing process. She has created other art around the theme of sexual assault and ending the stigma and anonymity surrounding it. An earlier piece included a series of bed sheets hung in a room. One was left blank to represent victims who had not yet come forward. Another had raised hands painted on it.
In all, Hutchinson estimates the bra project took her 40 hours. She scoured thrift stores to find the right bras to use.
“I liked the idea that they have all had a different owner and specific life, and maybe there is a specific reason these women were getting rid of their bras,” she said. “Maybe they didn’t have good memories associated with it or maybe it was just old and they threw it out.”
To Hutchinson, displaying the piece on a college campus was particularly important.
“People don’t report (sexual assault) thinking nothing will happen, or they do report but there isn’t enough proof so nothing happens,” she said. “It is not just Clemson, but there is huge room for improvement on every college campus.”
Information from: Anderson Independent-Mail, http://www.andersonsc.com