A Florida State art major who wanted to make a statement about sexism and rape culture gained notoriety this week for her painting featuring Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
The painting by Lena NW features Winston — who was investigated but not charged in connection with a sexual assault last year — sitting on a throne engaging in oral sex with a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Other imagery in her painting includes a woman about to penetrate another representation of Winston with a strap-on Heisman Trophy, as well as a crab saying “Go Noles.”
“It’s my reaction to sexism within the college party/football/frat atmosphere,” Lena said. “It is a critique on society. I’m not drawing a conclusion or making a statement so much as I am making an inquiry.”
FSU, along with local police, have been criticized for their handling of the Winston investigation. Also FSU is one of at least 55 schools under investigation for mishandling sexual abuse claims.
A self-aware and shameless promoter of her own art — Lena hoped her graphic work would elicit some form of internet uproar.
A FSU health professional who asked to remain anonymous said that he found the imagery in the painting to be “very disturbing.”
“This image has now placed a label upon a person and tarnished not only his name without just or factual evidence,” the professional said. “I understand what the artist is trying to achieve, but in no way do I agree with demoralizing a human being, guilty or not guilty, which are my same thoughts and feelings for women who have come forth as victims of sexual assault/sexual violence.”
Cameron Kennerly, the president of FSU’s Pan-Hellenic Council, agreed that the image is problematic in its implications: “The work serves only to vilify Jameis specifically as not only a hedonistic and perverted King Midas of sorts, but also to continue the pattern of gender objectification as a whole by emphasizing its reversal rather than satire.”
The president of the university’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter, the fraternity’s chapter adviser, and the associated government’s student body president did not respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed.
Jennifer Dritt, the Executive Director Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, told BuzzFeed that she doesn’t take up any issues with the artist’s painting. “I’m not offended by her use of those images to address an ugly issue. If it makes people uncomfortable, it makes them uncomfortable.”
Dritt went on to explain, “The truth is, sexual assault is ugly, and by and large in this community people who are FSU supporters and football fans have thought those things are more important than looking at the ugliness of assault.”
Despite Lena’s artistic outcry against football and Greek life at her university, she said she is not certain whether Winston is guilty.
“I have no opinion as to whether or not he is actually guilty of rape. I heard that the accuser was advised to leave FSU for her own safety; she was shamed, humiliated, and received death threats,” Lena said. “Regardless of the reality of whether or not rape occurred, the potential victim’s integrity was defiled by the prestige and privilege of the ‘Heisman Trophy winner.’ So I thought, How could I create a context for the Heisman that would make it a shaming, humiliating, negative, inflicting, oppressive object for Jameis? This was my solution.”