Badass Student Feminist Makes Waves with Political Statement Art

61 melted guns, 75 survivors, 1 incredible statement on our nation’s domestic violence crisis

The University of Iowa campus is anything but short of activists fighting for a wide variety of social justice issues. In fact, Iowa City is often recognized as a small college town filled with a booming voice in the world of politics.  Masters of Fine Arts student, Jessica Pleyel, gifts the community with her story on sexual violence and survival through an interactive art piece entitled To(get)her.

Unfortunately, Pleyel herself is a representation of a statistic that seems too alarming to be true. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, one in four Americans will encounter domestic violence and one in six women will be raped in their lifetimes. The young artist bares her scars and turns a horrifying experience into a chance to empower other women and let them know, “We’re going to fight this together.”

75 survivors of sexual violence gathered in one room to melt 61 guns made from wax with domestic appliances including curling irons, high-heeled shoes and irons. As the women transform Pleyel’s artistic representation of violence into puddles of hot wax, the survivors share a liberating experience as they ignite a discussion about the Violence Against Women Act, a piece of legislature that is essentially an approach to violent acts committed against women.

photo by: Julia Howe

Students at the University of Iowa are all too familiar with the disturbingly regular e-mails beginning with “This warning addresses a report of sexual misconduct.”  According to a 2016 “Speak Out Iowa” survey, One in five female undergrads at The University of Iowa report being raped, 11 percent of rapes happening during their first semester on campus. Pleyel’s demonstration calls for immediate attention to this issue that hits close to home with many on Iowa’s campus.

To(get)her takes artful expression a step further by tying it to the Violence Against Women Act. It guarantees tough new provisions to hold offenders accountable and programs to provide services to the victims. The audience has an opportunity to attempt to change the statistics on sexual violence by contacting government directly.  Handouts were distributed with photos and contact information of every single politician that chose to vote against women’s safety.

photo by: Julia Howe

Pleyel plans on taking her artwork on the road and connecting survivors from different communities while influencing people to petition the politicians about their vote on the Violence Against Women Act.  Her work is a testament to the notion that change begins in small communities like her little college-town of Iowa City, IA and will ripple out everywhere if people are brave enough to use their voices.

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