Jeanne Willette Previews Andrea Bowers: #sweetjane for Visual Art Source
"Andrea Bowers" in Visual Art Source
Pomona College Museum of Art and Pitzer College Art Galleries both Claremont, California
Preview by Jeanne Willette - Continuing through April 13 (Pomona) and March 28 (Pitzer), 2014
Google “Steubenville, Ohio” and the first entry that pops up is “rape.” The "#wweetjane" project by Andrea Bowers, an artist and activist in the tradition of feminist intervention, is a re-visitation to the scene of a crime — a communal rape of a teenage girl — and a scrapbook of the artist’s own Ohio childhood as that time unfolded in what we in Los Angeles refer to as “flyover country."
Now shamed and vilified, Steubenville is the kind of town that exemplifies “Friday night lights,” where the high school football team carries the burden of the town’s honor and identity. Whether or not the fetishization of football led directly to rape is debatable, but clearly women were dehumanized there. A native of Ohio, it comes as no surprise that Bowers would be interested in male privilege run amuck, for the artist inherited the mantel of protest from feminist artists, such as Suzanne Lacy.
In this project, Bowers traces how, forty years later, women are still blamed and slut-shamed for being raped, while the perpetrators are protected and forgiven and the local media reinforce male dominance. Validating that art should be engaged in current events and must energize the audience towards awareness and change, Pomona and Pitzer colleges present the imposition of external judgment upon Steubenville. Bowers shows how the scab was peeled off a social wound, exposing a suppurating rape culture. The desecration of one human being by a pack of teenage boys would have been covered up by complicit adults, who drove the victim and her family out of town, if the footballers had not filmed themselves in flagrante delicto, then circulated the images of violation and bragged about their deeds.