Art exhibit at Glendale Community College tackles sexual assault and domestic violence

Volunteers work on the Crystal Clear quilt project being created at Glendale Community College in Glendale on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The debut of an art exhibit at Glendale Community College Thursday will kick off a monthlong focus on sexual and domestic violence.

The “Crystal Clear” exhibition was created by artists S.A. Bachman and Neda Moridpour, who established the collaborative called Louder Than Words.

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Their idea for the exhibit was embraced by David John Attyah, the college’s art gallery director and art department co-chair.

“At [Glendale Community College,] we’re on a campus where there’s so much pressure to be good students that it’s sometimes hard to admit we have other problems going on behind the scenes,” he said. “This was attempt to bring the issue … into the fore.”

In connection with the exhibit, a series of events began earlier this week when the college hosted a panel of experts discussing sexual assault and violence.

Attyah said many students were eager to speak to the experts one-on-one after the talk.

“There’s clearly a desire to have this conversation,” he said.

As artists who met at the Otis College of Art and Design, Bachman and Moridpour established their collaborative to address gender and domestic violence and sexual assault, among other issues.

Their exhibit features a seemingly simple item: wallpaper.

Although not be apparent at first, a series of images in the wallpaper illustrate pointed fingers, knives, fists and belts, common items linked to cases of domestic violence.

“When you get closer, you see the wallpaper is made out of some of the most common instruments that are used in assault,” Attyah said.

On the other side of the gallery are real-life framed stories of people who have experienced sexual assault, but the stories are displayed as embossed prints without ink, so it requires viewers to take an up-close look.

“They’re very hard to see because that’s just how the problem is — hard to see — and you need to shed illumination on it,” Bachman said.

The ‘hard-to-see’ issue has sometimes become evident among some gallery visitors.

“You can see the hesitation of people stepping into the gallery,” Moridpour said.

Once they do enter the gallery, there is an option for students and others to participate in sewing a quilt that will be shipped to Washington, D.C., to become part of the national Monument Quilt — a symbol that stands against sexual violence.

Both artists acknowledge that quilt-making can be powerful in attracting people to sit in a circle and openly discuss their own experiences with sexual assault or violence.

“If they have a shared experience — if they’re doing something with their hands — it’s easier for them to reflect upon the conversation or talk about their experience,” Moridpour said.

For those who participate but don’t talk, there is a value is in listening to others tell their stories, she added, and survivors may leave the gallery with more confidence in themselves after hearing others’ stories or sharing their own.

“The most important part is to figure out — whatever happened to you — it’s not your fault. It’s part of this bigger social issue,” Moridpour said. “There’s nothing wrong with them. They didn’t do anything wrong.”

The gallery at Glendale Community College will debut the Crystal Clear exhibition with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. The gallery is open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, and by appointment on the weekends. Admission is free.

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Kelly Corrigan,

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan