This painting for the Intersection Art Project is called Illumination and it represents the Calgary organization CHILL. CHILL works with people who have been sexually exploited and their families by surrounding them with a community that is willing walk them on their journey to restoration and healing. They are also at work in local high schools to educate youth on the warning signs that could lead to being groomed and entrapped into situations that lead to sexual exploitation. Many of these people who need the services are young, with a bright future ahead of them.
Illumination: the action of illuminating or state of being illuminated: as
a : spiritual or intellectual enlightenment
b (1) : a lighting up (2) : decorative lighting or lighting effects
c : decoration by the art of illuminating
The word illumination came to mind very early in the development of this piece. Words are very important, far more than I think we realize sometimes. For those who are entrapped into an unhealthy relationship or lifestyle, oftentimes they are held there through words. Being labelled with demeaning and negative terms can have a hold stronger than physical bondage.
In this piece the figures are defined by the light, not the words surrounding them. The light highlights the positive message found within them. The negative words are there, but they are buried and faded, similar to physical scars. There are two figures to represent the idea that this type of healing requires community. People to walk beside you and help you up and are the same as you: defined by the light and healed.
On a technical note, I really enjoyed two aspects of this piece: painting white, thick and straight from the tube. I love how that looks and feels. These white slashes appear almost electric in real life. The second part was working with the words. There are layers and layers of the same words painted over, obscured, redefined, washed over again. It was like a metaphor for the good and bad words in our lives. Sometimes a particular label dominates us during a season, then it washes away as something else comes up. Never the only one, never completely erased. There are words on this canvas so obscured I can’t actually make them out anymore and don’t remember what they say, but they are there shaping the image, subtly.
Anyways, it was a great privilege to work with CHILL, if you are reading this and someone you know (or maybe yourself) could use their advice on a difficult situation, reach out to them here. They are amazing to work with.