Their Story is Our Story
Click on the picture to see a gallery of my artwork for TSOS. For more information about each individual, visit www.tsosrefugees.org. To learn about my involvement, scroll down.
Sketches from Life
In June 2016 I traveled to Europe to meet individuals, learn and document their stories. These are sketches I did on site.
Using sketches, photographs and video I am putting together portraits of many of the individuals we met, which will be published together with their stories.
Larger paintings that document stories of refugees.
My path to this project has three separate beginnings. One is my lifelong love affair with humans. I have always been fascinated with people, both in an artistic and a personal sense.
Another beginning runs deep. Most of my ancestors came from Europe. They came to the U.S. for various reasons and at various times, some as early as the 1600s, others not until the mid 19th Century, but all looking for a better life for their families. Then there came a time when their new country denied them that better life and they were forced from their homes because of their religious beliefs. They became refugees, leaving their homes behind yet again to start over. I am a result of the grit, faith, and community that built deep foundations for their new life in the desert.
Fast forward to 2006. My husband and I accepted a job in Germany. It was my first experience living in a foreign place. The language and culture barriers very quickly became overwhelming. Thanks in part to some inherited grit and faith, but especially to the kindness and patience of so many people in and around our little town of Bad Soden, I found a place for me and my family there. And subsequently in England. And now back in the U.S. There are times when we all need a friend, a hand of help, or just someone to understand.
Now we watch as floods of refugees fill camps around the world, most recently in Europe. Having been a ‘stranger in a strange land’ myself, and having ancestors who were forced from their homes, I feel I cannot turn my back on others who have been forced from their homes. I want to help. I first wanted to use my talents and time in a project that would raise awareness. But it has become clear that just raising awareness is not enough. We are a society that is hyper-aware of headlines bouncing off the page, the screen, into our minds and out again. We have forgotten how to stop and listen, to understand, to have empathy. We are already aware of the Refugee Crisis. What I want to do is create a connection - a place for a conversation to begin. To give society a moment to stop and put themselves in another’s shoes, and treat the other as they would like to be treated.
I believe art, in its many forms has the power to do this. Uffe Elbaek, former Danish Minister of Culture said, “We need new ideas, we need new ways of doing things and we need a whole new way of approaching each other with much more empathy and understanding. This means that the rest of society really needs to focus on the world of art and culture as a vital source for not only solutions, but also ways of finding solutions… and a whole new concept of what a valuable life really means.”
My hope is that our work in TSOS will advocate for refugees by helping others understand the challenges that displaced people face, and have empathy for them. Any type of global crisis requires help from all sides. I hope my work will inspire others to find their own way to come to the rescue
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All of us, whatever our circumstances, need help sometimes. We all have pain. We all have need. Echoing the words of a wise man, the circumstances that place us in need will not define us, but our response to others in need will. In a refugee camp in Greece I saw examples of tragedy, despair, vulnerability, uncertainty, and deep deep pain. I also saw hope, respect, gracious hospitality, kindness and love. For me it was a reminder that as a human family, we have so much in common. We all have needs and we all become better people through #LOVE.