Using Her Voice: An Artists Fight Against Abuse

by | Jun 21, 2023

Taylor Hengesbach, known as Ette Art exposed her alleged abuser during a one-hour performance at her exhibition called “Whistleblower”,  on May 25th at the Ideal Glass Studios in New York City.

Dressed in a crystalized nude bodysuit, the artist  sat on a charred mattress (the same mattress she was molested on as a child) while a violinist and interpretive dancer performed in the background. The audience watched in silence as the artist cut and shaved her head bald. For the finale, Ette stood and revealed on a 96 x 120 inch long white sheet with the words written in red paint, “Harif Guzman is a Predator.”

In 2020, Ette was introduced to Harif Guzman a renowned international artist by her then boyfriend. As a novice painter, Ette revered Guzman as a mentor. Their conversations empowered Ette to share her childhood of abuse. Ette grew up on a dairy farm in a small rural town in Saginaw, Michigan. Her childhood best friends’ sibling, who was in college at the time, allegedly molested her at nine years old for two years.

Ette moved to New York after graduating from Michigan State University in 2017. The artist was never trained as a painter and credits her grandmother for her artistic ability. “My grandmother is my favorite artist,” says Ette. “She was an artist and illustrator for newspapers.” Adopting her grandmother’s nickname as her pseudonym, Ette channeled her grandmother’s left-handed ability after she passed away. “I am a shamanic painter,” says Ette. “I feel when I need to make a painting.” Working in a trance-like state, Ette’s artistic expression captures interdimensional energies and lived experiences.

Harif Guzman, is a contemporary artist from Venezuela. Guzman, who began making art in the 1990s, gained notoriety from doing street art in New York City. He is best known for using photographs and paintings of eroticized female subjects, materialism and pop culture. In addition, his works have been featured at the Whitney Museum, MOMA, the GR Gallery in New York City and at the Paul Fisher Gallery. His work is collected by Tommy Hilfiger, Uma Thurman, and Dag Cramer. Along with his celebrity client, Guzman has collaborated with companies such as Ralph Lauren, Volcom, and Burtons. Ette thought of Guzman as a mentor because of his artistic and commercial success.

On the evening of the alleged rape, Ette was at Guzman’s home with friends.  “I told him my family now knows about my childhood abuse,” says Ette. The young artist had been afraid to share her story of abuse with the world. She had only confided in a few friends. She thought Guzman was a safe confident. “He told me he was so proud of me. I thought when he asked me to go into the studio with him we were going to paint together.”

Alone, on the studio side of Guzman’s New York apartment, he allegedly offered Ette cocaine. She accepted the offer but claims she was given ketamine, a horse tranquilizer that causes temporary paralysis . Ette shares, “I was sitting on the bench in his studio in front of his remastered painting of the famous Klimt painting, “The Kiss.” “He said, you’re gonna to fuck him (referring to then boyfriend) but you don’t want to fuck Harif Guzman.” Ette alleges Guzman was blocking the door, exposing his genitals. “I got up to leave the room and he wouldn’t let me,” alleges Ette. “My head was in a dissociative state because when he was assaulting me, I literally made no noise. I always loved to imagine that I would scream. There were people in the other room. But I didn’t yell. I didn’t make a single noise. I don’t know, my vocal cords felt like I didn’t have a throat.”

Two sources have spoken out since the “Whistleblower” exhibition. In 2016, Seymour Tellam met Guzman at a party in New York. Her female friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, met Guzman before socially. Guzman and a male friend allegedly invited Tellam and friends back to his apartment to see art. “When we were at the apartment, his friend offered us weed,” says Tellam. “He kept suggesting we go to the window while Guzman was taking my friend in the opposite direction.” According to our source only a few minutes passed, “I had a weird feeling they were trying to separate us. It wasn’t even ten minutes when I looked back I noticed the door to Guzman’s studio was closed.”

Empowered by her instincts, Tellam went to check on her friend. “When I opened the door, he was on top of my friend kissing on her neck,” says Tellam. “She was struggling and protesting, no. I called out to my other friend and started hitting him. It took two of us to get him off of her.”

Fashion designer and influencer, Christina Caradona, shared her experience of the record about  Guzman. “I went with friends to his apartment for an afterparty,” alleges Caradona. “He kept insisting on me and another girl to sniff coke off each other’s breasts and I wouldn’t.” A few years passed, when friends abroad contacted Caradona. A bar in Barcelona, Spain had a portrait of Caradona topless displayed as artwork. Guzman allegedly sold the topless photo without her permission. “I never gave him permission to show my photo let alone sell it for profit,” says Caradona. “That was a violation of my privacy.” Caradona has openly addressed Guzman on her social media platforms.

Local media outlets, artists, and supporters came out to witness the “Whistleblower” exhibition. She had never shared her experiences publicly and felt it was time for her to feel vindicated. “It’s a huge relief to let all of this come out. It has effected my life in so many ways and I’m proud of the other women who have made statements to stop abuse”.

Guzman has been approached for comment several times and no charges have been pressed against him.

Photo credit: Hamish

For more about Taylor Hengesbach: https://etteart.com/ Instagram: @ette_art

 

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