The Pomona College Museum of Art and Pitzer College Art Galleries are pleased to present the exhibition Andrea Bowers: #sweetjane. A new project by Los Angeles-based artist Andrea Bowers, #sweetjane examines the notorious Steubenville, Ohio, high school rape case and the subsequent trial. A small, close-knit community on the Ohio River bordering West Virginia, Steubenville is a rustbelt city reflecting the last remnants of industrialization. It is also home to “Big Red,” one of the most famous high school football teams in the country. On the night of August 11, 2012, several star football players raped a 16-year-old girl from the neighboring town of Weirton, West Virginia. The incident was played out on various social media sites, which featured the football players’ celebratory posts, pictures, and tweets and, as a result, received national attention.
In addition to drawing and photography, the exhibition “sweetjane comprises a video based on Bowers’s three trips to Steubenville that documents the protest surrounding the trial and activities of “hactivist” group Anonymous. This documentation is interspersed with video and photographs from the artist’s teen years. Bowers grew up in a small, football town similar to Steubenville. In this work, Bowers returns to her core subject matter of women’s rights and draws attention to the under-examined “rape culture” that is becoming a tradition in this country. Her return to Ohio to document the Steubenville case is a form of personal mapping of thirty years of violence against women.
The project explores the notion of anonymity—which became a form of protection for the victim (Jane Doe), Anonymous and the townspeople—as well as the visibility of the teen rapists, with whom the media ultimately sympathized. Ultimately this project is about the naming of injustice. For many, Jane Doe offered the opportunity to finally speak about their own experiences of violence against women and perhaps help change the imbalance of patriarchal power.