Student Artist Spotlight: Sophie Himmel ‘24 raises awareness of sexual violence on campus with sculpture project


Sophie Himmel ‘24 created 100 casts of her chest for students to place around campus in places that they have felt unsafe. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Himmel ’24)

By Madeline Marriott, Assistant Arts and Culture Editor

During finals week, students woke up to find hands clawing up the steps of the Farinon Student Center and feet running across the quad as plaster squirrels looked on.

As a part of the final project for an introductory sculpture course, Sophie Himmel ‘24 decided to raise awareness of sexual assault and harassment on campus.

Himmel created 100 white casts of her chest. She then invited students to decorate the casts with paint, glitter and other ornaments. Students were encouraged to place the decorated casts anywhere on campus they have felt unsafe.

Several casts being decorated during Himmel’s event. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Himmel ’24)

Himmel came up with the idea for the project after reflecting on the number of her peers who have felt unsafe on campus. 

“I was very fed up throughout this semester alone hearing so many stories of harassment and assault from so many different people on every side of the gender spectrum,” Himmel said. “I was just so angry that so many people that I love are going through it, and I wanted to talk about it.” 

The decision to allow her own body to be placed around campus was not an easy one for Himmel.

“At first, I was really nervous, because that’s my body and people are going to violate it,” she said. “But at the same time, the point of the entire project is if you’re talking about exploitation through art, the art is going to be exploitative in nature.”

Himmel felt she had to use the privileges afforded to her body to speak up about the issue for others.

“I was trying to use my body to stand in place of people who don’t have the same privileges as I do. I’m white, I’m thin, I’m cisgender and I have a lot of privileges in those terms,” she said. 

Himmel placed several of her own casts around campus, including in front of the Phi Kappa Psi and Chi Phi fraternity houses. By the next morning, her casts, along with many others placed there, had either been destroyed or removed. 

“It speaks a lot to the power structures and the social life on campus,” Himmel said of the removal and destruction of the casts.

Three casts placed on the steps leading up to the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Himmel ’24)

The casts in front of Phi Kappa Psi and Chi Phi fraternity houses aren’t the only ones that were destroyed. Olivia Bamford ‘24 placed her decorated cast on the steps outside of Easton Hall because several of her friends living in the building have felt unsafe in their dorm rooms this semester. 

“I know all the people in [Easton Hall] have felt unsafe or sexualized non-consensually there, and I felt like placing my cast there would be an homage to that and the experiences that they’ve gone through,” Bamford said.

Less than 12 hours after Bamford placed her cast, it had been crushed into several pieces.

“I knew what was probably going to happen, given that it was in a public area where people were going in and out a lot, but it was definitely surprising that it couldn’t even last a half day cycle,” she said. 

Bamford’s cast destroyed on the steps of Easton Hall. (Photo courtesy of Sophie Himmel ’24)

Himmel, too, expected the widespread destruction of the casts.

“Thanks for proving my point. There’s a reason people feel entitled to the female anatomy,” she said.

Himmel hopes students will reflect on their immediate reactions to seeing the casts around campus.

“I’m asking a question of the Lafayette community,” Himmel said. “You see a pair of boobs around campus. What’s your first instinct? What does that immediately make you do?”