Artist Feature: Allison Bouganim
Editor Shenyah Webb, Art, March 15th, 2017
Wax That Ass -- a project fighting sexual harassment.
The progression in gender equality awareness has brought younger voices into the spotlight in ways I don’t remember seeing in my own generation. While brooding in my own sexist experiences as a teenager, or simply not even realizing all the places they existed, I was quiet about it. I didn’t truly realize my voice until well into my 30s. I see more and more young women coming forward in artistic ways to promote the message that this is not okay. It gives me hope for my children and for the future of women.
When Allison Bouganim shared her work with me, my initial response was how proud I felt by her bravery and great insight, especially at the ripe age of 18. Her most recent body of work, Wax That Ass, is a series of interactive sculptures created by casting various female asses, women brave enough to come forward with their stories of rape and harassment, then molding their asses with plaster and wax. Finally, she adds a digital element to them. Each one is paired with a group of sound clips ranging from things women find themselves saying in the bedroom seeking acceptance to sexist music clips. When touched in certain areas, they are sounded.
In addition to the interactive gallery, the asses are also designed to move from place to place. In a “guerilla-style” fashion, camera ready and on the look out, she poses them in locations throughout her hometown of Miami. Although this seems, and is, harmless, she has actually been banned from various locations for her installations.
“My site-specific installations are meant to illustrate typical places of unwarranted harassment towards women. Whether it be from going to the supermarket, or the beach, the park, your place of work… My works are meant to play in the comfort and discomfort of the viewer while sparking a conversation. They are designed to test the bounds and limitations of sexuality.”
“Growing up in Miami, the over-sexualization of the female form was incredibly prevalent — and oddly accepted. One of my earliest memories of this experience was when I was around nine. I was holding my older sister’s hand while walking, when a group of men lowered their windows and shouted something disgusting to us and then referenced lesbian porn. I also remember an earlier memory when a friend and I were waiting for our bus at the bus stop, where a group of men pulled over to where we were, opened the doors, and asked if we wanted to get in. Since those very early experiences, I was always curious about the sexualization of women in our culture and how it was so normalized — especially in Miami. As I grew up, I experienced that kind of treatment towards women and young girls at a more dramatic and aggressive rate. I did more research on the male gaze, the porn industry, and other sources of inspiration for me. I then decided that it was time to make a statement about these issues.”
“For my upcoming exhibition, I am working one-on-one with rape survivors and other women to create the sculptures, and then photograph them in places where they have personally been harassed or felt threatened. The goal of this exhibition is to allow their stories and voices beheard rather than told.”
Rather than these survivors becoming re-victimized by not feeling believed, empathized with, or even protected, Bouganim aims to share these stories in a light where they cannot go unnoticed.
“My goal as an artist is to raise questions/awareness about political and social issues plaguing our world. I feel it is my obligation to bring these topics to light, using my artistry as a platform to combat these issues and enlighten more people about these topics.”
Distribution of knowledge and awareness of the exploitation of women and the harassment of their bodies will continue to be the primary focus of her work. Bouganim tells me she is even planning to host “butt-molding parties,” possibly taking her project to the next level.
“My hope is that this project grows into an awareness that just cannot be ignored!”
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Allison Bouganim is an emerging 18-year-old artist from Miami, currently living and working in San Francisco. Born a triplet, she chose a less conventional path than her siblings, immersing herself into alternative education and project-based learning. This opened up many opportunities for her at a young age. By 15, she started her own internationally recognized jewelry business, and by 17, she started her own non-profit organization collaborating with a local homeless shelter for women and children in Miami, called Lotus House. Her participation in the activist arts and design world has not gone unnoticed. She has exhibited in Florida, Tanzania, Africa, and will be holding an upcoming solo exhibit in San Francisco in April 2017. She was honored as the 2017 YoungArts Finalist in visual arts and received the 2016 Silver Knight honorable mention in art. To learn more about her work, visit her site, here.