Clothing, Embroidery, Paintings, Sketches and Photography Among the Projects the 21-Year-Old Artist is Launching
Traumatic Personal Experience Inspired Feldman to Instill Activism, Advocacy and Awareness in her Art.
“My work aims to show how the human body should be appreciated, listened to and respected. The human body is a sacred place”
Rebecca Feldman has always been artistic and expressive, traits she learned growing up in Westchester from two parents who encouraged and inspired her to explore and share her developing talents. As an eighth grader, taking pre-college classes at New York’s sacred Fashion Institute of Technology, she began experimenting with mood board, fabrics, sewing and drapes, intrinsically drawn to materials she could shape into something more artistic. Her efforts earned her admission to Temple University, where she continued to create unexpected designs, like sneakers emblazoned with college logos, but with markers. Her line of Vans adorned with university insignias turned into a business of its own. But it wasn’t until a life-changing experience that she would find a more important purpose. Sexually assaulted in college, Feldman’s life was forever changed, and led her down a path of self-discovery, advocacy and using her talents for more than creating art. She would create awareness.
“I explore tough subjects and create work that I believe will send powerful messages on subjects that aren’t brought up in normal or comfortable conversations,” says Feldman.
Among her projects are a line of clothing designs, including a dress made of condoms and one from her mother’s wedding bouquet. Feldman, currently pursuing an art degree at Temple’s Tyler School of Art, also sketched elegant evening-wear dresses for women, complete with feathers, tulle, ruffles and fringe which she can create on demand, as well as a series of paintings featuring nude bodies of women. In addition, Feldman has produced several striking photographic portraits that show femininity, beauty and strength through thought provoking black and white images.
“I’m a multimedia artist with a concentration in fibers and textiles,” says Feldman. “My style is funky, colorful, avant-garde but accessible. My inspiration comes from all of the powerful women I’m surrounded by in my life.” She lists her mother, legendary New York media executive Beth Feldman as her role model (“she taught me how to be strong and stand up for what I believe in so that’s why I don’t hold back when I make artwork”) and a small group of friends who have encouraged her to pursue her dreams as a working artist (“these girls show me every single day what it means to be a ‘girl boss,’” says Feldman).
It wasn’t until a harrowing, deeply personal experience, though, that Feldman found a greater purpose. She was sexually assaulted while in college. Since then, the trauma has had a major impression on her life and art.
“This experience doesn’t define who I am, but it’s shaped my artwork into an outlet for myself but also as a place for advocacy,” says Feldman. “I’ve learned over the years that what happened to me is not unique; I’m not alone. So many friends of mine have shared their own experiences with me and it’s heartbreaking that this is the world we live in. I want my work to show others that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and there’s a path to success even if it doesn’t end with a guilty verdict.”
The assault inspired Feldman to use her creativity to help women like her. She began designing a line of clothing hospitals can give to rape survivors. “After someone gets a rape kit done, they cannot go home in the clothes they wore,” she says. “Survivors will often go home in used clothing that was left at the hospital and it can feel dirty and make that person even more upset about their situation. The line I’m working on aims to provide comfort and support.”
She is also designing embroideries featuring messages of positivity, support and encouragement survivors can sew into clothes “to remind them they are not alone. It may bring a small piece of comfort to them in one of the most difficult times of their lives,” says Feldman.
Another project important to the artist is a series called “What they Wore” where survivors describe the clothing the night of the assaults, without images. From just their recall, Feldman recreates what she hears. The purpose, says the artist, is to expose the shameful practice of blaming women for their assaults simply by their appearance. “This is often asked in trials to put the victim’s character in question.”
“Every person who is assaulted copes in different ways,” says Feldman. “Some people shut down, others become reckless, and some people are able to function like nothing ever happened. There is no right way to heal. But it’s important for everyone to know that no one is alone and that there are millions of individuals who can empathize with one another over these tragic experiences. My experience has brought so many incredible people into my life and I don’t think I would be where I am as an artist today without them. “