On Monday morning, a controversial art installation was displayed on the Chapel lawn overlooking the Polar Bear statue. The piece sparked controversy and despite a security presence around the piece on Monday, it was vandalized on Tuesday night.
The artwork, a student project for Installation Art, a seminar in the visual arts department, depicts a wooden cross with messages about abortion rights. Above the cross is written, “God’s body God’s Choice” and carved into the wood is an image of a womb with the caption “1973-2022”. Around the cross from the branches of the tree hang figurines of babies and at the foot of the tree, a small message board that reads “mother’s [sic] that never were’ decorated with scattered mini tombstones of ‘RIP Mom’ with various years inscribed on each.
Some students found the art’s message confusing.
“I think there’s a place for art and religion and all that stuff. it was just annoying for me personally,” said Izzy Miller ’23. “At first it looked like … it was done as an act of threat or hate … so there was a relief when it was clarified that wasn’t the case, but I don’t think that negates the fact that it looked like [it was done by] the street preacher who has come to Bowdoin and harassed students in the past.”
Other students questioned the artist’s intent, coupled with the backlash her piece garnered from the campus community.
“It’s supposed to be challenging for Bowdoin students to reevaluate how they feel, but at the same time, this is so ambiguous … and at the same time, is this really the way to do it?” said Chloë Raines ’23.
The Orient obtained a copy of the artist statement provided by the work’s original creator, Sophia Rosati ’24, who organized the exhibit as a project for her 3000 Levels seminar taught by Visiting Assistant Professor of Art Audrey Shakespear. Rosati listed her hopes and intentions for creating the artwork, which she described as a “pro-choice piece of art” and “a memorial to the death of Roe v. Wade.”
“The work, like the title, is a means of combining Christian ideology with feminist ideology, representing the inextricable connections between the two,” Rosati wrote in the statement. “Unruly images such as a large cross, babies and tombstones, all placed next to the non-denominational campus chapel, are used to instill innate shock in the viewer. My goal with this art is to force us to face this suffering.”
Rosati’s statement also shed light on her intention to create an artwork aimed at “deconstructing the common ignorance we share as Bowdoin students.”
“When we encounter things that go beyond the boundaries of the Bowdoin bubble, how do we respond? How can we interpret something we expect to disagree with without prejudice? This piece forces Bowdoin students to look beyond our initial judgments,” Rosati wrote.
According to Rosati, the response from the community has shown the need for the very dialogue her art is trying to create. She mentioned that she had to file many reports of vandalism and theft against her work. The College’s security report recorded one instance of the art being “trespassed and vandalised”.
“The response I saw from the campus just made the point of my artist statement, that it can be incredibly difficult for all of us to separate our biases from our analysis when we look deeper,” Rosati wrote in an email to the Orient. “I appreciate the classes that discussed my work in depth, yet I urge people to continue to digest and accept my artist statement and appreciate my art for what it was—art.”
On Tuesday, the class held a discussion session, open to the public, where attendees were able to discuss the impact of the students’ installations. However, few of the audience attended.
“I think a lot of harm could have been mitigated by a statement that was released immediately,” Miller said. “I think it’s complicated, right? There is a place for all this dialogue and I don’t want to meet someone who is against art[…Αλλάνομίζωότιείναιπολύσημαντικόεμείςωςκοινότητατηςπανεπιστημιούποληςναμιλήσουμεγιατογεγονόςότιτοέργοείτεείναιείτεόχιήτανέμοιαζεμεπράξημίσους»[…ButIthinkit’sreallyimportantthatweasacampuscommunitytalkaboutthefactthatthepiecewhetherornotitwaslookedlikeanactofhatred”