Reach (2017), silk-screen textile prints, wood, bronze multimedia sculpture
21 ft tall
This work is an homage to women in my life who are victims of violence, trauma, and physical and psychological abuse whose lived experience shaped who they are forever. Three amorphous figures reach toward one another with outstretched arms and hands made of bronze, to touch and hold one another in search of support, and comfort. On their own they are strong, and together they are even stronger. Bronze, steel, and wood combine to construct their skeleton, but the processes used to bond their elements together (welding, drilling, gluing, and screwing), are sometimes even stronger than the materials themselves.
Inspired by the used of pattern-work by artist Parastou Forouhar, three women are displayed and covered in colorfully-patterned skin, embedded with a hidden, dark truth. From afar, they appear as merely decorative designs. As the viewer looks closer, however, the detail of the patterns become visible. Drawing from my own personal narratives, as well as narratives of friends and family members, faceless and intentionally unidentifiable women tell their stories of violence and brutality within the colorful patterns. These narratives are repeated continuously across the skin of the figures to indicate the process of trauma, as well as the repetition and vastness of these narratives in the lives of women all over the world.
These women are vessels of trauma, who not only hold these lived experiences within themselves, but wear them on their bodies like skin. Although one may view three women reaching for one another, they strongly stand together as one.
Empowering Artistic Voices Project (2017)
A collaborative mosaic mural project funded by Macalester College’s Live It, Dream It Grant (2017)
This project was led and facilitated by Juliette Myers in collaboration with Dr. Julie Thompson-Dobkin, founder of the Hidden Truths Project and Kant Institute and Eddie Iniestra, Activities Coordinator at Save Our Youth (SOY) program in Costa Mesa, California.
Empowering Artistic Voices was a collaboration between leaders Juliette Myers, Julie Thompson-Dobkin, Eddie Injestra and ten Latinx high school students, many of whom live in poverty, from SOY in Costa Mesa, CA. The project involved group discussions about the societal issues these youths confront in their schools and communities, its impact upon their education, and their fears for the future. The students were asked to translate their shared experiences into a 3-panel mural which they independently designed and created. The three leaders were there to help with discussion facilitation, and Juliette guided the students in the mural-painting process. The goal of the project was to use art as a platform for the students to explore their identities, the issues confronting them, and to teach them how to use art to address the social injustices in a peaceful, reflective manner.
Many of the students were first-generation American citizens. They come from households where English is a second language or not spoken at all. Their parents struggle with multiple jobs to provide for the basic needs of their families. They face opportunity gaps in learning, racial discrimination in their schools and communities, and housing insecurity as a result of gentrification of their neighborhoods. The gap created by English proficiency issues, family situations, and race have impacted their abilities to succeed academically, and impacted their sense of self-worth and confidence in their abilities.
Empowering Artistic Voices encouraged the students to transform their unique experiences and/or concerns into a collective work of art composed of each of their individual vocies. It is hoped that the public exhibition of the mural will raise awareness of the social injustices experienced by these youths in their local communities and schools, help to educate, foster community building, and to provide the students a sense of empowerment.
Post surveys conducted at the completion of the project were uniformly positive in supporting the role of the arts to become an active voice for social change, promoting community building and engagement, and allowing differences to become a unifying factor in the fight for equality in the schools and community.
The Mosaic Voices Project (2015)
A collaborative mosaic project funded by Macalester College’s Live It, Dream It Grant (2015). This project was led and facilitated by Juliette Myers in collaboration with mosaic artist Lori Greene, owner and founder of art studio Mosaic On A Stick.
In 2015, I spent the summer in Minnesota leading a community project called the Mosaic Voices Project. I worked in collaboration with the nonprofit, Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) and mosaic artist Lori Greene at Mosaic on A Stick in Saint Paul. WISE is an organization which runs a program called Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL), a program that helps the underserved immigrant and refugee high school aged-girls to develop self-confidence and leadership skills through college access, English tutoring, and civic engagement. The organization works primarily with girls from Thailand, Burma, Somalia, but also includes Laotian, Indian, and Nepalese girls. I had been working with this organization for a year and wanted to organize a community art project for the girls in the program.
I received the Live It, Dream It grant from Macalester college to create the Mosaic Voices project. The vision for the project was to collaborate with the girls of GGAL to create a community mosaic project centered around the themes of courage, compassion, and creative self-expression. Many of the girls were still learning English, and were recovering from trauma after escaping from the violence of political turmoil in their home countries. After working with the girls and developing relationships with them for a year, I wanted to explore the possibilities of art as a tool for language, connection, and healing through creative expression. I wanted to work with mosaic because of the inherent symbolism of the medium- creating beauty through unity out of pieces that were broken and dismembered. Throughout the program which was 7 weeks long, I facilitated discussions surrounding identity, self-reflection, and art as a process of self-expression and healing, while Lori taught the girls the process of mosaic-making. Each of the girls created their own mosaic artwork based off both the facilitated and organic conversations that happened over the course of the summer. At the end of the program, the final works were installed in the group therapy room at the center for Breaking Free (an organization that supports women who are in recovery from abuse and trafficking). At the end of the project, the girls expressed that they felt a sense of pride in creating their own work of art for a cause they cared about, and also found great joy in the artistic process.