Last night was a very memorable night. I presented my art along with my fellow X Collective artists in the "Let's Play House" exhibit. This spring show was truly a sensitive endeavor because we were touching on the subject of Domestic Violence which is a salient problem in our society. 1 in 4 people are victims of domestic violence so we knew it was a topic that we needed to discuss on a larger scale. The X Collective is a non-profit arts charity that talks about social injustices and issues through art.
I've participated in three prior exhibits with the organization but this particular one was really a challenge for me. However, being part of another domestic violence support organization Hunks4Hope, I used my network to tap into another special group called Milagros Day Worldwide. I approached the founder Dawn Diaz and said I want to interview your survivors and take pictures of them. As luck may have they had a Transformation Academy meeting the next day and I attended. I walked into that meeting and was received with warm and curiosity. Dawn took me into the hallway and there I met with six of my future muses who were domestic violence survivors. These women were not only survivors but also mentors for this organization. They took their experience and pain to help other women rise out of their abusive lives to lead new and productive lives. I love then structure and mission of this group to shift the victim mentality into one of living in the now. Patricia, QoQo, Melissa, Kitty, Maria and Eleanor all raised their hands when I asked for volunteers for my portrait series. Honestly I had no idea what I would call this body of work but I waited until I would speak with each and everyone of them to give this project a name. One by one I spoke to the survivors. It was an undertaking that I've never subjected myself to, but I knew it was something I needed to do. I had to lend a voice to these women but I had to use my ears to soak in what they went through in order to use my eye to deliver a story. I needed to have an emotional picture drawn in order to get a grasp of their success. One recurring theme was that most of these abusive relationships started with mental and emotional abuse then gradually stepped into a world of physical abuse. One of the survivors also was a witness to abuse as a child and that continued the cycle of being a victim all the way into their adulthood. Least to say I was fully immersed in their experiences and it opened my eyes to the full ramification of domestic violence. Being the head photographer for Hunks4Hope was just the beginning of my understanding. Listening to these women was a true measure of this silent plague.
The shoot days were upon us and I was excited to capture the full essence of the survivors through my lens. Dawn recommended a slightly implied nude capture to draw out their natural beauty and to visually burn upon the viewer their achievements. I decided I was going to do a two pronged approach by not only doing a full body portrait but also a headshot to fully extend the viewer experience. I told Dawn I wanted to capture them in a celebration of rising from the ashes. I wanted to tell the viewer that through all the suffering and plight of their past abusive relationships they truly are in a better place. I believed visually telling other survivors that their is light at the end of the rainbow is important. I read too much articles and research that show most victims don't report abuse because they are afraid of retaliation, blackmail or being looked down upon by family and friends. So in theses sessions I made sure my muses were comfortable and felt free to express their happiness in front of my camera. I was so happy to see all of the survivors eager to sit for my session and to continue the discussion of domestic violence. I was in awe on how these regular people became champions. However, what really moved me was the physical transmittance of the positive emotions after our sessions, when I hugged many of the survivors and felt them shake with happiness. To stand their and see the tears of joy dripping down their faces and receive hugs you only get when you see a long lost loved one for the first time in years. At this moment I called the project "Miracle Workers."
The opening reception was a resounding success! Three of the six survivors I captured were able to attend, and this made it extra special. To see their reactions as they walked into the gallery and see their visual story being told was priceless. When Dawn Diaz saw her women on the wall she was overcome by happiness. Again I was greeted with tears of joy and that was all I needed to know that I had translated the joy they felt appropriately.
The icing on the cake was knowing I was surrounded by other artists that voiced similar experiences and created art and film to further discuss domestic violence with all the beautiful people who attended last nights reception. My fellow participating members were: Charly Joaquin Dominguez, Alan Escoto, Ayana Blackman with director Mykwain A. Gainey, Alex Borne, Maleeka A Harris and Daesja Coleman.
Fellow artist Ayana Blackman is all smiles at our opening reception.
Fellow participant Maleeka, dancer and poet.
Hunks4Hope founder Lila Green and I after the opening last night.
Daesja showing her extreme joy for her first official gallery exhibition.
Charly's installation. Image by Patricia Arthur.
For information on domestic violence support groups and organizations visit: