Charis Lillene Fleshner is a former University of New Mexico student who is currently working as a conceptual mixed-media artist and art teacher. Her studio practice primarily focuses on soft sculpture, craftivism and the merging of feminism and art.
Fleshner’s exhibition about sexual assaults on college campuses, titled "Lobo Alert," was on display at the CFA Downtown Studio and was available for viewing from Oct. 23 to Nov. 9. UNM was not involved with the making of the art exhibition.
Here at the Daily Lobo, we were curious as to reasons she did this art exhibition and why. This is what she said.
To honor students who have been sexually assaulted on campus in a more impactful way
She said creating a large exhibition about the subject is much more effective than a cold, banal tweet.
"The tweets do nothing to prevent acts of violence or violation from happening, and I feel it is insulting to the victims of traumas that occurred on campus," Fleshner said.
She herself was cat-called and sexually harassed during her time as a student at UNM
Fleshner used art as a way to sort through what she had experienced. She used it as a way to heal. She said that art is her way of processing life — both the good and the bad.
She believes that UNM is not doing enough to change the culture of sexual assault on campus
In 2016, 23 dating violence incidents and 14 sexual assault cases were reported on campus according to the most recent Clery report on campus crime.
Fleshner said leaders at UNM seem to have their heads in the sand when these cases are mentioned and reported. With this exhibition, she wanted to expose and challenge UNM to do better in preventing these types of crimes on campus.
The intimate link between the materials she used and the nature of human beings
While many people may not see that connection, many will appreciate the careful construction and representation each banner has.
"As an artist and intersectional feminist, I use craftivism (craft + activism). The banners are hand sewn to add a human, tender touch to the sensitive nature of the messages and stories on the banners," Fleshner said.
She believes universities should be a safe place for all students
"Universities are a place to learn, and sexual assault should not be able to change that dynamic," Fleshner said. "For universities to be places where learning is the primary focus, sexual harassment and assault must stop being a cultural norm. At UNM, in Albuquerque, in America and globally, sexual assault needs to stop being the norm."
Fleshner said she wanted to create an interactive art exhibit that forces viewers to weave around and navigate through the banners, turning easily ignored or easily de-sensitizing tweets into an interactive experience. She hopes to bring the banners to campus and place them in different buildings for students and staff to see.
Caitlin Scott is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Caitlin69123118