The Living Arts of Tulsa had a special art show this past May that opened at the first Friday art crawl that month. The show dealt with homelessness in the Tulsa Community. When I first read the artist call, there was no question; I absolutely had to do something. I brainstormed several ideas and mediums to work with. First and foremost, I had to figure out what I wanted to say in my piece. This show was not only for social conscious artists, like me, that wanted to say something that would help in some way, shape, or form; but this show was for artists who are either homeless now, or have been homeless in the past. I thought to myself, what am I going to say in this piece? Do I even have a voice in this? I haven’t been homeless before, so how do I even begin to touch on such a subject? Then one day at work, it hit me.
I used to work for the Department of Human Services as a Court Filer; and one of the many coworkers I got close with, revealed to me late last year that she had been homeless at a point in her life. I am so thankful for her openness and willingness to reveal something so personal to me. After she told me this, a flood of ideas came to my mind and I decided to express those many thoughts through a mixed media collage. I titled my work Witnessed. I chose this title for countless reasons. The first reason being, that each piece of my work depicts what I have seen with my own eyes regarding the homeless in this community alone. I have lived in this area almost my entire life and much of what I have seen has held with me. For example, the five cardboard signs represent just five of the many signs I have seen homeless men and women holding up in the Tulsa area throughout the years. The newspaper I collaged in the background of the work symbolizes when I was a child and I saw a homeless man, in the downtown area, stuffing his clothes with paper to keep warm during the harshness of winter. The pencil drawing of the two hands represent the times I have witnessed more fortunate individuals extending a hand of help towards the homeless. This part of my piece sheds a more positive light. The hands also represent my former coworker and friend that I mentioned earlier. She not only communicated about the many hardships she had faced during that time in her life, but she also talked a lot about an elderly couple that showed kindness to her and played a very large role in helping her get back on her feet. Present day, she is a successful business owner, and a great example of someone who strives to help those in need. Her story significantly inspired this piece as a whole, and I wanted to pay homage to her story.
My other reasoning behind the title of this work is the stories and testimonies of the homeless. I have heard so many stories, not just about what these individuals have endured, but also what they have witnessed in their lives living on the street. The pencil drawing of the eye symbolizes this particular point. I drew the eye with a great deal of emotion to symbolize the trials that these individuals have encountered. The details I drew, such as the wrinkles and imperfections, symbolize a life that has been lived and how it has worn on their face and eyes.
These examples are just a few of the many portions of my collage that are symbolic to the Witnessed title I gave it. I wanted this piece to be easy for all viewers to understand and interpret, not just those with an artistic background. My principal hope for my viewers is that it speaks volumes enough for them to reach out to the next homeless person they see and change their life in some sort of positive way.
The show was wonderful, with a terrific turn-out. My favorite part would have to be all of the interaction. There were performance pieces taking place from those who are currently/or have been homeless in the past. Each performer shared their stories with the viewers present.