Introducing Visible Woman: Sheffield alumna’s innovative sculpture in The Diamond

The Visible Woman sculpture

A new sculpture highlighting the power of women’s voices is on display in our Diamond Building.

Visible Woman sits tall and confident, her arms open for discussion. The sculpture was created by University of Sheffield alumna and former colleague Sarah Cook, as an exploration of issues surrounding the silencing of women.

Sarah said: “The work explores issues about women being silenced, about the female voice, about fear of that voice, particularly in the context of today’s misogyny and harassment scandals. When Visible Woman was placed in the Diamond Building, the work resonated meaningfully with the issues for women in engineering.

“By placing my work in public spaces, it provokes response and interpretation, communicating through gesture, body language and identity. Through this engagement people are encouraged to think about their own stories.

“My creativity is fuelled by my feminism and my work researches missing representations of female authority. I examine how aging is experienced by women in our misogynous climate.”

Sarah’s work marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which gave some women the vote for the first time in the UK, following decades of struggle. Visitors are invited to consider the journey of women’s empowerment ever since.

In light of today’s widespread harassment scandals, the sculpture invites conversation about the female voice and the cultural fear surrounding it. The work questions what is real and who can be trusted. Passers-by have been keen to discover who Visible Woman is, and what she might be saying.

Visible Woman can be seen on the ground floor of The Diamond until 28 September 2018.

Sarah’s university life

Sarah Cook has a had a varied career across our University and beyond. She explained: “I have worked as an occupational therapist, researcher and educator. I first went to the University of Sheffield in 1989 to study an MA in post compulsory education. I was particularly interested in methods to evaluate adult learning, having worked as a community based rehabilitation trainer in various countries in Africa and the Middle East. I returned in 1996 to complete a PhD in primary mental health care based in ScHARR, specialising in work with people with psychotic conditions. I then won a Department of Health post-doc award and embarked on a career in mental health care research and teaching, working across both universities in Sheffield.

“When I recently retired I did something I always wanted to do – go to art college. I embarked on the Masters in Fine Art course at Sheffield Hallam University and have loved the stimulus and challenge studying with professional artists from all over the world. I have always made art and crafts in my spare time, but I don’t see my creativity as separate from my working career. I think we bring our creativity to our professional work in the ways we continually experiment and innovate."