Thoughts on an Exhibition

“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.

Conversations & Connections

When I made application to the Festival of Arts for the 2016 show, I set an intention to open a conversation about homelessness.  Within the conversation was the hope that my imagery would express the humanity within each photograph, that the people without homes were in fact, people just like the ‘rest’ of us … simply without shelter and resources. Their faces remind me that it could happen to any of us and at almost any moment.

I shared with words the story of my own son, his homelessness and his spiral into schizophrenia. Along with homelessness, we all struggle with how to approach mental illnesses, and in my case, I often feel useless to conjure a solution.

The response to my work and words has superseded anything I might have expected. One woman burst into tears, said not one word, but came and put her arms around me. A gentleman shared that his two sons have been in and out of homelessness and was grateful that I had shared my images. A young man revealed that he struggles with mental issues. Each and every one thanked me for sharing the pictures. It is as if I have given permission to speak …

I’d like to share some of the early comments in my guest book:

“You move mountains with your work. Thank you.”  –Laurie

“Your touching story changed my outlook on the homeless. Blessed. Thank you.”T.T.

“Wonderful. The America we see but ignore. We are all one breath. One heartbeat away from being the exact way your pictures show.” –Carol

“My mother was the highest paid street singer in San Francisco. Her home was the Bart Street Station or the cold streets. Thank you so much for conveying the humanity that is so often overlooked or judged by society.” –Miranda 

“Thank you for your heart’s mission and putting them here. I find these to be the strongest piecest of art and storytelling.” –Jana

“You have such strength and heart. What you are doing is so important.” –Katie

Briefly, thanks to everyone who has stopped to visit my work and take the time to comment.  I appreciate each and every kind word.  I will post more of your responses as the show moves through August. 

Show Time - Laguna Beach Festival of Arts

Festival of Arts

The show is set. The artwork hung. The summer Festival of Arts beckons. Tonight is preview night - press and invitation only. Honored that I was selected as an exhibitor after two rounds of jurying among 140 artists and in a wide variety of mediums. We open to the public on July 5. Come visit - Booth #38 - explore the art, exchange ideas, and meet some great talents.  

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