“Art has no other purpose than to brush aside… the conventional and accepted generalities, in short everything that veils reality from us, in order to bring us face to face with reality itself.” – Henri Bergson
As the Laguna Beach Festival of Arts draws toward a close, I find myself reflecting once again on the power of imagery. My photographic work seems to be touching hearts – and hopefully minds.
I have been graced by viewers who have openly wept in response to the images and my artist statement.
I have watched them lean closer to their partners, children or friends, and speak softly to one another about the photographs. They written touching notes in my guestbook and hugged me and taken my hand.
They have told me their own heartbreaking stories.
These conversations are of a most intimate nature. Not the kind of exchange they would normally share with a stranger, but the work – the men and women in the photographs – give them permission to open their hearts.
They have shared the pain and heartbreak of mental illness within their families and the toll it has taken. They have shared their stories of homelessness - both personal and relational - and the nearly insurmountable struggle to regain societal footing after everything is lost.
These conversations have affected me in ways I had not imagined when I hung the show at the end of June. I knew the exhibit felt risky. I was not hanging ‘pretty wall art’. I was exposing my own vulnerability.
My intention for the show was to open a conversation - either internal or external - with the viewer. I wanted to share the humanity in the places that we don’t want to look, and I have been rewarded in ways that have no empirical measure.
We don’t want homelessness to exist. Not in our pretty towns. Not in our nice shopping districts or our clean city streets. We want ‘them’ to go away someplace. We don’t know where – or in the main – care where. Just not in our neighborhoods. Not in our picture perfect cities.
If my work instills a changed awareness in any one viewer, then my intention has been met and surpassed. There are no simple answers to the problem, but the more bright minds focused on a transformation, the more likely we will find new avenues to address housing for those with little to no resources. There are many new platforms currently winding their way through the legislative process, and I remain ever optimistic that we can collectively initiate a transformation and restore the dignity that has been lost in too many lives.