Artists: Tessa Denison
Jiacan (Mia) Ruan
Sabrina M. Walton
Here in the Northeastern United States, we have the luxury of living in a place that is open and willing to overcome difference. Of course, there are many exceptions to this claim, but when put in context with the rest of country and much of the world, it is a safe claim to make. One of the problems, although minor when compared to the rest of history, is that political correctness has become so rampant that many of us start pointing hostile fingers at ignorance. We need to remember there is a difference between ignorance and hostility; the difference being that one cannot fault another for ignorance; one should instead help them understand. Conversations can be eye-opening for everyone, and art is one way in which these sorts of conversations can be sparked.
Thanks to the open community here at SLU, students taking Amy Hauber’s Figurative Sculpture class were able to display works that will most likely spark some questions and possibly some “ews.” “YONI: a Collaboration” is a sculptural interpretation of the word “yoni.” The definition of yoni, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, is as follows: “Yoni, (Sanskrit: ‘abode,’ ‘source,’ ‘womb,’ or ‘vagina’) in Hinduism, the symbol of the goddess Shakti, the feminine generative power, and, as a goddess, the consort of Shiva.” The theme revolves around a feminine concept that is quite different when compared with our Western ideas concerning femininity and its cultural associations. As one of the artists, I felt it was a very liberating and empowering experience to work with femininity this way, especially when transferring it into my sculptures.
Much of the reason this exhibit and the concept of yoni can be so provocative is that the feminine body has always been a topic of debate. It has been covered up, owned, and sexualized by Western society. It wasn’t until 1920 that women in the United States had the right to vote after over 80 years of organizing, and this was only the beginning of the battle. Feminism has become part of our everyday vocabulary, and yet, silence still falls when the human body, particularly the feminine body, is discussed. As one of my peers, Jiacan (Mia) Ruan from China said, “Sex has always been an obscure topic for us. I never learned anything about that from my school or my parents. I want to show in my work that there’s nothing to be ashamed about to talk about your body in public.”
Silence did not fall on the Figurative Sculpture class. In a class that happened to be composed exclusively of women, the conversations ranged from vaginas to clitorises to our experiences as women.
This exhibit is meant to provoke questions and discussion, but also to convey a sense of beauty when one looks at the figures. There is an elegance in the forms inspired by the yoni concept and feminine body that will hopefully be conveyed to the viewers. Art can be provocative and challenging, helping us all grow into better people. Stop by Griffiths’s main entrance to see and experience this temporary exhibit for yourself.
Special thanks to Amy Hauber for instructing this wonderful class and Carole Mathey for providing the case for the exhibition.