Sewanee’s Bairnwick Women’s Center and the Office of the Dean of the College proudly present CLITERACY, a mixed media project by conceptual artist Sophia Wallace. CLITERACY, which features massive text panels with 100 Natural Laws regarding the importance of being “cliterate,” explores the cultural silence surrounding issues of female sexuality and “alterity,” or otherness.
Wallace’s work focuses on the exploitation of gendered, sexualized, and racialized bodies. She has presented her work in exhibitions throughout the U.S. and abroad, at the Kunsthalle Wien Museum, Art Basel Miami, Scope NY, Taschen Gallery, Aperture Gallery, and more. Her work has been reviewed in the New Yorker, Salon, and Hyperallergic among others, and has been recognized with awards such as the Critic’s Pick Award at the Griffin Museum.
CLITERACY, a portmanteau of “clitoris” and “literacy,” in particular addresses the importance of bodily autonomy in relation to citizenship and the concept that even in a culture that sexually objectifies women, discussion of female sexuality remains taboo. Wallace’s emphasis on the clitoris as a female organ of sexual pleasure challenges the patriarchal assumption that women’s sex organs exist only as the inverse of men’s. Through the massive scale of her largely text-based 100 Natural Laws, Wallace’s work expounds recent scientific breakthroughs essential to understanding the clitoris as a core component of female pleasure.
CLITERACY also implores viewers to consider the relationship between female pleasure and larger issues of bodily respect and sovereignty. By encouraging the audience to be “cliterate,” Wallace emphasizes the importance of self-knowledge, body positivity, and consent. The issue of female autonomy has become increasingly relevant to discussions of sexual assault and consent, namely on college campuses, and is directly connected to debates pertaining to reproductive justice, pertinent to the state of Tennessee after November’s elections. By presenting the female body as an active whole instead of a passive object, Wallace lends a voice to silenced bodies.
Wallace’s thought-provoking message illustrates the importance of challenging ourselves to engage in taboo subjects in an academic, liberal arts setting. Exhibited on the first floor of the Jessie Ball duPont Library, CLITERACY will disrupt not only the silence of its setting but also the overall cultural silence surrounding female bodies in a phallocentric society. It encourages both cis-gendered and transgendered women to take ownership of their bodies and holds non-female-identifying persons responsible for recognizing the importance of female sexuality.
Please join us for CLITERACY, on display on the first floor of duPont Library off of Georgia Avenue from Wednesday, February 25 to Wednesday, March 11. Wallace will give a lecture on the installation on February 25th, at noon in Sewanee’s own Convocation Hall. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.