‘Nude’ performance piece causes stir, raises awareness

University Star Staff

The Texas State community took to social media Monday morning after a student sat nearly nude on the steps of Alkek Library.

Monika Rostvold, studio art senior, wore a thong and pasties on her breasts the color of flesh in a performance piece to make a statement about the objectification of women for Sexual Assault Awareness month.

Women are pressured to attain an ideal body type, Rostvold said. However, women come in “all different shapes and sizes.”  The artist wanted to highlight the difference between the way the male and female bodies are perceived by society.

“I think that me having to wear pasties is a (double) standard in itself,” Rostvold said. “I have to cover my areolas and my nipples, and men don’t have to do that.”

The piece went “hand-in-hand” with Sexual Assault Awareness month, she said.

“Me and a few of my friends have been sexually assaulted before,” Rostvold said. “I just wanted to take away that kind of standard on our bodies and make it more empowering. I also wanted to not view our bodies as sexual objects but gear it toward beauty and nature.”

Rostvold sat on the steps of Alkek for about 45 minutes.

“At first, I got negative reactions,” Rostvold said. “People (got) really, really close to me, touching me and whatnot.”

Rachel Romero, sociology senior lecturer, was on her way to teach an 11 a.m. class in Derrick Hall when she noticed students crowding around the library steps.

“I approached the crowd,” Romero said. “I was curious. And so there was this girl—she didn’t have any clothes on—she had this beautiful silk, red bandage over her eyes, and her ears were also covered.”

Romero took her 100-student class outside to observe what was happening.

Romero said she was moved by the art piece.

“It was so cool, and it was so pure, and she was so graceful siting there,” Romero said. “And I was really moved by the art.”

University Police Department (UPD) officers came to talk to Rostvold.

“They were just making sure I wasn’t on drugs,” she said.

Officials said she broke no laws during her performance, and the officers eventually left. Rostvold researched the university policy regarding nudity before the performance.

“When we got there, the cops, or the authorities, were talking to the woman, and she just kept herself so cool,” Romero said. “She was incredible just handling that.”

Romero’s favorite part of the experience was seeing some of the police officers help the woman put her blindfold and headphones back on.

“I really appreciated it—giving her the ability to express herself—and then she was incredible,” Romero said. “When that happened, all of us broke into a clap. We just clapped for her. She heard it all.”

After the police left, people came and sat with Rostvold and gave her letters, water and flowers, she said.

“I didn’t expect it to be as positive as it became,” Rostvold said.

Loc Huynh, studio art junior and Rostvold’s studio mate, worked with her and helped document the reactions of passersby.

“At first, people were shocked that there was a person that was naked on the steps,” Huynh said. “But then they could see that there was a bigger meaning behind the so-called ‘shock factor.’”

Rostvold is “more than happy” about the feedback she has gotten about her performance.

“People have been coming up to me and leaving me Facebook messages about how they were sexually assaulted and (how) me doing this gives them empowerment,” Rostvold said. “Other people are saying that they have bad body image and how all this kind of stuff gives them more courage.”

Huynh was “definitely impressed” with the outcome of the performance.

“She is probably the bravest soul ever for putting herself out there like this,” Huynh said.

Romero said she appreciated the woman’s work.

“I wish more stuff would happen like that on our college campus because that’s what college campuses are for—to really push those boundaries, explore new things and make a difference,” she said.

This was Rostvold’s first performance piece, but may have further performances “down the road” because of its success. She no solid plans to do any in the near future, she said.