Born through passion, love, and faith, The Body, a Home for Love is a project created by Deun Ivory to break patriarchal boundaries surrounding women of color healing from sexual abuse. Her project aims to teach women to see their bodies as a home for love; to acknowledge their bodies as sacred and owned by themselves.
Today’s society often looks at and portrays the woman’s body as something that can be used, manipulated, and taken control of whenever one may please.
Ivory, a photographer and woman of color herself, has shared her passion for women’s rights, the female body, and the discourse around it for years. Her art and views have been featured in places like Glossier’s Chicago pop-up, as well as on Black Girl in Om’s podcast.
Ivory started The Body, a Home for Love after entering to win a grant from VSCO Cam, a photo editing app that held a contest for folks to pitch a “home” themed project idea that would serve marginalized communities.
“God came to me and told me to do a project on sexual abuse,” explains Ivory, who has experienced it firsthand. “Right when I submitted my proposal I knew I was going to win.”
Her intuition was right, she won the grant and hit the ground running to make her voice heard through art, conversation, and power in a political climate that needed it more than ever.
She began messaging women on Instagram asking them to share their sexual abuse stories, offering them a safe space to express emotions, find trust, and open up without feeling shameful of their narratives.
After the interviews, Ivory would travel to the women who had bravely shared their stories to create the inspiring art she is known for.
Photography is the face of her project — she enjoys finding ways to capture the emotion and freedom of women who feel trapped in their stories as they find ways to accept their self worth.
“Many shoots were naked,” shares Ivory. “I never suggested it. I would tell the women ‘Whatever freedom looks like to you, I want you to be that,’ and many times that was being naked, both physically and emotionally.”
The photoshoots blew the artist’s mind. She was capturing vulnerability, women who struggle with their looks or weight, or those who were afraid of being judged and blamed for their assault if they showed too much skin to the camera. “There was a lot of crying, confessing, and body-shaming,” she admits.
Society works wonders in robbing women of their freedoms, whether it’s being told to stay sober so a man can’t take advantage of them or to not show their cleavage so men won’t be tempted. In today’s world we are taught how to avoid becoming a victim of sexual abuse, instead of teaching abusers to keep their hands to themselves in the first place.
“Being a woman is a beautiful thing,” says Ivory. “You don’t have to fear being sensual.”
The Body, a Home for Love is a traveling masterpiece of boundary-breaking art and speech. For the next few months Ivory and her team will be hosting pop-ups in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New Orleans in an attempt to change the way we look at sexual abuse. The three-day gatherings will consist of a keynote speech made by Ivory, numerous talks and discussions with healers and advocates, and a gallery to display the 13 women who were photographed, all of which will be available for purchase.
While the gallery will be open for everyone, Ivory has set aside time for a special women-only viewing of the gallery, to create a safe space to absorb emotions evoked by the women in the photos without any male presence. She finds importance in experiencing the space as women, surrounded by women, as the stories are perceived authentically through the feminine eye.
As The Body, a Home for Love grows with the need for activism in the political climate, Ivory plans to make her project into a nonprofit organization by August 2019.
“It’s emotional labor, but it’s matched by an outpouring of love,” Ivory shares. “We’re merging activism with wellness and the arts.”
Anna Guilford is a journalism and public relations senior at Cal State University, Long Beach. She is a women’s rights activist and carries a profound admiration for women speaking their truth. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website at annalguilford.com.