August 2, 2018

9 Portraits, Millions of Sexual Assault Stories.

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Claire: opening up and healing sexual assault & rape through art.

Recently, Waylon Lewis was honored to talk and listen with Claire about sexual assault, rape, opening up and healing, and her art:

In late 2006, when I was 17 years old, I was raped by a stranger.

It happened in my neighborhood: a quiet, suburban development in a quiet, rural community in Pennsylvania.

For the next nine years, I locked this trauma away in the deepest corner of my subconscious mind. I moved from Pennsylvania to New York City and began a new life.

In early 2016, inspired and emboldened by Kesha’s rape trial, I finally spoke openly and publicly about my attack in a self-published piece. That was the first step on the long road to healing and the beginning of the rest of my life. I began to understand the profound power of owning an experience that was out of my control: the power of choosing the words, the timing, the vessel, the lens.


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The art:

In early 2017, I moved to Los Angeles to pursue art. Though I had drawn my entire life, art had never been my focus. After nine years of living in New York City and working in music, I was ready for a major shift. Around the same time, the #MeToo movement took center stage.

Inspired by this and my own experience with assault, I began ME:WE.

ME:WE is a stippling portrait series that aims to tell the stories of nine women who have been sexually assaulted. These women are your daughters, your sisters, your partners, your friends, and your classmates. Many have never told their story before.

Each woman has taken a selfie—in natural lighting, head-on. With these as reference photos, I am drawing each portrait in a style called “stippling”—a process of rendering value and shape through pen dots. I’m currently on the fifth piece and documenting my creative process on Instagram.

Each portrait is composed of tens of thousands of these dots. Individually, each mark represents a woman who has been sexually assaulted. Together, they compose the image of a single subject.

Each woman’s written story, as told in her own words, will accompany her portrait.

The vision:

ME:WE is about finding solidarity in a solitary experience.

I plan to tour these pieces across the United States next year, beginning in Los Angeles and ending in New York City. I hope to have all nine women present at the closing show. I will be partnering with TOMS shoes, as well as local and national women-focused nonprofits to make these pieces seen and these stories heard.

I hope that women find community, connection, and power in these stories, and that the courage it takes to tell them is contagious.


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Claire Salvo

author: Claire Salvo

Image: Author's Own

Editor: Catherine Monkman