the body: a home for love
Artful storytelling holds the power to broaden perspectives and drive dialogue. This year, in partnership with Access Ventures, VSCO Voices equipped five creators with funding and mentorship to tell the stories of marginalized communities in the United States through art. In her own words, Deun Ivory narrates her final project, alongside quotes from the women who bravely shared their stories with her.
the body: a home for love is a visual storytelling series that explores the narrative of black women, including myself, who have endured sexual abuse as a result of patriarchy, lack of male accountability and sexualization of young black girls. Through visual documentation and a series of interviews, myself and the women involved will use our voices to unpack the details of our traumatic experiences, dismantle the belief that women are responsible for these attacks and share the healing journey of how we’re reclaiming our bodies as a dwelling place for love, joy, beauty and comfort.
This journey has been life altering in every way possible, primarily because it has required me to face and accept this truth: I am traumatized by my childhood experiences and by men, especially men of God. After numerous conversations from this project, I realized how I’ve cultivated an ability to disassociate from situations or truths that bring forth pain, not realizing how it has also robbed me of the ability to experience joy and emotional attachment.
The way in which the women in this project have unraveled before me has given me insight into how we spend most of our adult lives trying to fix, cope, escape, and heal from childhood trauma. It really hit me during the project’s photo session, when the topics of nudity or sex would arise, and most of the women would express an inability to be fully present or confident within themselves because of the emotional scars that lingered from their abuse.
In all honesty, I chose the body: a home for love because God told me to, and as much as I didn’t want to, I felt a strong conviction to commit to this journey. Throughout my line of work, the common thread is always restoring, affirming, and celebrating the black woman. It gives me so much joy for so many reasons. But God wanted to challenge my entire approach to art, the way I engage with my community, and my emotional attachment to the work I produce, which is how I ended up here.
I chose this project because I was called to it. This project allows me to understand why storytelling is vital to healing, for myself, for the women involved, and the women who experience our stories. Prior to this project, I viewed trauma from a very abstract perspective because, for one, I never identified my own experiences as traumatizing, and secondly, I, like many of the women in the project, have learned to disassociate from my experiences in a way that makes it difficult to actually connect.
The interactions between me and the women involved, whether by phone or in-person, were therapeutic because we both felt empowered by the other to continue in this journey toward wholeness. The level of vulnerability needed to complete this experience has stretched me and my community in ways I never imagined. We feel seen. We feel heard. We feel affirmed in knowing that we aren’t alone.
Deun will host her first art exhibition during Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April. Her connection to this body of work is deeply personal, and her heart for change means the completion of this project is not an ending point but a foundation to continue building upon. Whether the future holds starting a podcast, making a book, or recreating this project annually with different women, she plans to continue developing opportunities to dialogue about sexual abuse within the Black community.