Exploring Embodiment Through Photography

Lindsey Rothrock

On Wednesday, February 9, the Redeemer Art Gallery welcomes Madison-based, fine art photographer Lindsey Rothrock. 

Rothrock has always had a passion for photography. As a young child, she often stole her mom’s point-and-shoot camera to take her own photos. When she was nine or ten years old, her parents gifted her with her own point-and-shoot camera, the first significant gift she received in relation to her craft. In middle school, she would borrow her dad’s DSLR camera. By high school, Rothrock started working her first part-time job in order to purchase her own camera. 

While she has always loved taking pictures–and the creativity it entails–she has a deep appreciation for the way that her photography allows her to make meaning: “Art is a very human way of expressing truths that can be very difficult to put into words or express in another way.” 

Rothrock’s installation at Redeemer will run from February 9 to March 26. The installation comprises three photography collections, each offering powerful and intimate expressions of embodied experience and commenting on a different facet of embodiment. ¿te ubicas?, Spanish for “do you know where you are?” explores how memories of place, landscape, or home become imprinted within our bodies. Femininity/Masculinity is a thought experiment that asks us to attend to our assumptions about gender roles and expectations. The third, and newest collection, Sexual Assault, examines how experiences of trauma continue to live, not just in our memories, but in the whole structure of our bodies. 

The beauty of Rothrock’s work is that it speaks so deeply to the human condition. Associate Professor of Art Phil Irish speaks to the universality of Rothrock’s work: “Everyone has a body. We are thinking about how our bodies carry memory and meaning. We aren’t just a ‘brain on a stick,’ as James Smith would say, we are embodied creatures.” This exhibit will provide faculty and students with the opportunity to think about what it means to be embodied, which we can all relate to regardless of our affinity or lack thereof towards art.

Fourth-year media communications and art double major Henny Koonstra comments on one of the pieces that resonated with her: “Sexual assault is a really important topic that needs to be dealt with gently, while at the same time not minimizing the pain that assault causes. Her [Rothrock’s] work shows the beauty of the woman’s body without objectifying and captures the trauma of how assault has affected her, leaving bruises and scars on her body in both a physical and symbolic way.” 

Although Redeemer is a Christian institution, it would be naïve to assume that its religious affiliation somehow safeguards all students from the various injustices of the world–one of these being sexual assault. At the same time, it is a highly sensitive, often stigmatized and triggering topic, making it difficult to properly address.

 Irish puts it well when he comments on the ways that Rothrock’s work can be used to create a unique space to broach difficult topics: “A large section of the work is going to be the sexual assault piece, and we want students to know that. While it may make us uncomfortable, it’s something that affects Redeemer students. People carry stories within them; Christian people are not exempt from treating others poorly. This [Rothrock’s work] is not a preachy but rather poetic way to be open about injustices like sexual assault.”

Like Koonstra, second-year art major and business minor Cecilia Salituro was moved by the profound messages behind the photography. Salituro reflects on the Femininity/Masculinity collection: “These pieces really stood out to me as she [Rothrock] was commenting on how specific virtues are viewed as being tied to either males or females. Even within the church there is this flawed association between virtues and genders. These sorts of rigid boundaries and expectations of gender roles are held in a way that is harmful and goes against God’s design of diversity within human beings.”

Within an academic institution like Redeemer, various conversations occur everyday, some surrounding the topics that Rothrock addresses in her work. However, art allows for meaning to be found in a different way; it doesn’t occur through academic instruction or conversation but often through silent contemplation. Students are encouraged to come to the exhibit regardless of their discipline of study. 

Rothrock herself remarks, “Even if you don’t feel artistically inclined, I think it can be really powerful and important to sit with the truths and stories that are expressed in art. My work deals with topics that are common themes that a lot of folks wrestle with.” 

Both Koonstra and Salituro highlight the importance of encountering art as a community. Koonstra states, “Everyone can learn from art even if they are not an artist. It’s good to support the Redeemer art community–I really believe it’s important for different programs to get to know and appreciate each other’s work.” 

Salituro emphasizes the benefits of engaging with art: “So often we are thinking as academics in linguistic terms. Art is a completely different form of communication, but it has just as much depth, knowledge and insight. It speaks on topics of the spirit, relationships, and theology. All these things are so important to us, but we often only think of them in the linguistic context. Art gives us an enriching experience, both as a community and as individuals.”

Engaging with Rothrock’s work provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their own or communally on aspects of embodiment. It can be a way for fruitful conversations to flow from otherwise uncomfortable and “taboo” topics. Irish states, “Art is powerful. We can use it to build relationships with each other and hear one another’s stories and experiences. Rothrock’s show does this, perhaps more clearly than other pieces of art.”

Redeemer students, we sincerely encourage you to visit the Exhibition located in the Art Gallery. The instalment will be available for your viewing and reflection from February 9 – March 26.