Artists find inspiration in some of the unlikeliest of places. Sometimes, that inspiration is even found in the darkest reaches of the human experience. This was the case for Hannah Sewald, senior, when it came time to choose a topic for her senior gallery show. She channeled a traumatic experience of evil lurking in the dark into a breathtaking show filled with the ugliest and most beautiful sea creatures found in the depths of the ocean’s blackness. Sewald, an Art and English Education double major, was deeply affected when a close friend was sexually assaulted on the Lakewalk two years ago. After going through the process of reporting and recovering from the assault with her friend, Sewald’s view of the people around her changed.
“It became real every time I saw someone that could have matched the description of the perpetrator,” Sewald said. “I never hated anyone before, but now I was growing to hate any person that had the same hair color, the same stature, or even anyone that just looked at us for a second longer than was comfortable.”
Fortunately, Program for Aid to Victims of Sexual Assault (PAVSA) was able to counsel the two of them and lead them toward a path of recovery, and she was able to find inspirational light in the darkness.
“I turned to deep sea creatures because I felt they matched all the people I was so angry toward. They were monsters only found in dark corners, unexplainable, terrifying, and repulsive.”
The gallery show featured dozens of sea creatures cut out of black paper, intricately crafted to make the most of the negative space and lit by flashlights to show all of the angles and detail of each piece. Together, the show painted a beautiful yet haunting picture of what lurks beneath the surface. The process of creating these pieces also helped with the healing process.
“The process of cutting out paper was so therapeutic for me,” Sewald said. “It was a way for me to focus my emotions into something I could control and something I could put all my energy into. It became a way for me to think about what had happened and a way for me to understand.”
Sewald was able to donate $110 to PAVSA through sales of her pieces and hopes to continue contributing to the cause that helped her and her loved one so much.
“I would also encourage anyone who has been victimized to seek help,” Sewald said. “It does not make you weak, it makes you strong. Remember that you are beautiful, always will be, and don’t ever let anyone make you feel anything other than that.”
Like her art, Sewald’s message of beauty in the darkness is something that goes far beyond the gallery walls.
BY ABBY ROSEN Rosen672@d.umn.edu