A South Carolina high school student, whose artwork reflecting her own sexual assault had been selected for a school district art exhibition, had the piece pulled by the district two days before the show began for being “inappropriate,” reports WYFF-Greenville.
The print, created by Blue Ridge High School senior Gracie Holtzclaw, is entitled ‘Rape Culture’ and features a topless woman with tattoos and a black bar covering her breasts.
According to Holdsclaw, her art teacher had encouraged her to go beyond “pretty pictures.”
“I’ve gotten away from just wanting to draw pretty pictures and just make things look good,” she explained. “I’ve gotten into where I want to discuss controversy and just ink it out and print it.”
Holdsclaw said that the illustration grew out of her time spent in a Christian school and her experiences after being sexually assaulted.
“I started at an early age at a Christian school, locally, and we were always taught that it was our responsibility as women to cover up and be modest, and if a man was to ever get aroused or turned on or be interested in us, it was our fault,” she said. “Eventually, I had gotten sexually assaulted. It was true when it happened. Everyone blamed me for it and told me it was my fault and that just led the way into this art piece.”
Her high school art instructor selected her piece for the exhibit in part because of the story behind it, only to have the district reject it.
In a statement, a district spokesperson wrote: “This piece, for both title and content, was determined to be inappropriate for the District Showcase because the artwork is on display during a community event and can be viewed by small children.”
The district also indicated that they would institute guidelines for what would be acceptable in the future.
Holdsclaw expressed her disappointment saying, “I know I’m not the only girl in high school that’s been sexually assaulted and felt like it was my fault, so I wanted to get the word out there and tell people, ‘It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.’ Things that need to be talked about shouldn’t be taboo, because people struggle and we need to talk about those kind of things that people struggle with.”
The teen added, “I believe if we didn’t live in Greenville, South Carolina, this wouldn’t be a problem.”