Client: Wellspring International
Location: Alpharetta, GA, United States
Completion date: 2018
Curator and Artist Representative
Director of Wellspring International
Witnessing to remarkable beauty in the face of suffering.
A collaborative exhibition witnessing to remarkable beauty in the face of suffering. In 2010, I began exploring the question: Could a painting empower, promote, or exhibit the process of healing from a disfiguring event? In 2012, I learned about an organization supporting burn victims who are all living below the poverty line in India, Agni Raksha. The descriptions of these victims, many of them victims of domestic violence, and their stories of pain and strength sparked in me a desire to research and create works of art that would promote healing by honoring victims and their value through portraiture. Humbly acknowledging that my empathy could never bring justice, I tenderly dared to imagine the marks of suffering made beautiful, scars made new through art, and to offer a means for viewers to respond. These works mark a near decade of imagining and cultivating a way to create toward that end. Beneath layers of paint and storied markings, each portrait carries gold leaf that is often unseen. Other times it appears in cracks and bares the story of a life inherently valuable and worthy of honor and love.
Raise the awareness and raise money to aid victims of bride burning by creating a traveling exhibition of artwork that communicates an individual’s inherent value and beauty or a drawing or painting that attempts to witness to and maybe even participate in the act of rehumanization with the permission of those who have suffered dehumanizing acts of violence.
Naomi Zacharias is the director of Wellspring International based in Alpharetta, GA and Jill Carattini was the curator of Still Point gallery also based in Alpharetta, GA. Based on photography by Elizabeth Jones commissioned by Wellspring and potential drawings and paintings I would create, Jill proposed an exhibition to raise awareness of these survivors and their value as human beings. This invitation and conversation with Naomi and Jill led to a surprising acknowledgement. Rather than painting portraits to show an imagined healing that would erase the dehumanizing circumstances it would be more honoring and promote psychological healing to paint current and physically accurate portraits as an act of rehumanizing and presenting the enduring beauty of the human spirit through horrible circumstances.
The exhibition exists. Each woman painted has seen their portrait and love them. It doesn’t lessen the tragic circumstances or attempt to call them beautiful. In fact, it’s a traveling exhibition that is continuing to provide a means to inform and talk about the enduring beauty of life and the inability of darkness to overcome it. A new surgical hospital in India is planned that will increase the amount of surgeries currently possible by 1000% and funds continue to be raised as part of this exhibition. Visit wellspring international’s website if you feel called to help. I’m humbled to recognize that my passion to create could contribute to such a worthy cause.