We are in a startling time hearing the cries of children torn from their parents at the American border. Beyond this country, refugees are seeking sanctuary around the world. The multi-year Sanctuary project began as a visceral response to their humanity and has grown into a metaphor for those who are homeless and all of us adrift at home in the winds of change.
For decades I created individual paintings and assemblages ranging from abstract through figurative in a variety of mediums and I’ve been in many exhibitions including the California African American Museum and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. And my work was featured at the Los Angeles Art Show at the Convention Center in 2019.
Now Sanctuary is an immersive environment. I initially responded with life-size mixed-media drawings of figures walking to what they believed would be safety, while children grasp ropes suggesting how they are trapped. Those walkers formed Part One exhibited in 2019.
Then I saw reports of broken rafts laden with families trying to navigate the Mediterranean Sea. Willing to risk drowning, these desperate people added to the impact of refugees determined to walk to sanctuary. So I crafted symbolic three-dimensional rafts that escape from a dark mural across the gallery floor. That became Part Two exhibited in 2020.
But that can’t be the end of the story. I want the travelers to arrive at a place that holds possibilities. In reality, refugee encampments are dangerous. Populations that have been forced by violence, climate change and famine to abandon their homes in Syria, North Africa, Venezuela, Central America, and elsewhere, now cram together in makeshift shelters.
Still, I want to inspire hope. So I created Part Three. For this final phase I drew and sculpted families settled in tents and I hint at ordinary life resuming with a laundry place and a one-room school, wishing the children could have a future. The 2021 exhibit also includes figures in a symbolic clinic that raises funds for Doctors Without Borders.