Brought to Light: A Gathering of Voices
Brought to Light: A Gathering of Voices

about the exhibit

about the exhibit

Together survivor voices are incandescent, strong, and supportive. They create a kaleidoscope of connection. Artists Merudjina and Annalise Castro gather layers of individual and communal voices in their canvases.  

Annalise Castro’s series “Pieces of (Y)our Story” uplifts a community narrative from survivor voices including three new works based on Awakenings’ call for anonymous stories in early 2022. Castro invites viewers “to live with the survivors’ words for a short while and honor their resilience.” 

Within our individual bodies and the inner self there are stories and voices that respond to trauma, as Merudjina points to, there’s “a story of becoming and unbecoming.” Merudjina  honors both the inner self and other survivor stories in their series, affirming, “I want every survivor to know that they are worthy of love no matter what and to love themselves as they are. Always.”  

We invite viewers to add their voice on the interactive “feedback wall” in reflection and response to seeing these stories as a way of standing in this survivor community. 

meet the artists

meet the artists

merudjina

 

merudjina

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Merudjina (she/they) is a Black Haitian-American, non-binary inter-discplinary artist currently residing in Pittsfield, MA. She is an alumni of Williams College and Pittsfield High School. They are interested in how different mediums can tell a story and hold a story. They see art as a medium of healing and community. Art is a reminder that the process is about moving through and allowing time to see, to be, and to heal. As an artist she strives to create dangerously and with a purpose.

annalise castro

annalise castro

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Annalise is a visual artist working in painting, ceramics, fibers, and mixed media to explore expressive modalities of storytelling. She creates text-based artwork, vessels, and assemblages that explore themes of memory, lived experience, disclosure, gaze, protection, caretaking, holding, and containment.

Annalise is passionate about the creative process, mental health and wellness, regulatory art practices, and advocacy. She currently works as an Art and Trauma Therapist in Chicago, IL. Annalise has experience from a variety of art-based, advocacy, and clinical sites including community-based art groups, group art therapy, individual counseling, and art-based curriculum development. In addition to art and counseling services, Annalise is also passionate about community event planning to promote awareness on social issues and is involved with training other professionals and the public on issues pertaining to sexual violence, suicidality, harm reduction, and art-based intervention.

Her current art practice explores the complexities of interpersonal change with drama, humor, and self-disclosure. Her text-based paintings allow for discussion surrounding the themes of bodily autonomy, catharsis, place-making, identity, and inquiry of the past.

Annalise is self-represented and takes commissions on a limited basis. Inquiries for Annalise Castro may be directed to the Pieces of Y(our) Story Website or my personal website.

annalise castro

annalise castro

artist statement

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artist statement

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     The collaborative art project “Pieces of Y(our) Story” intends to bring awareness to the experience of sexual assault survivors by showcasing y(our) words and statements using visual art pieces.

     Creative expression, such as writing and visual art making, can be helpful for processing a traumatic experience. An anonymous online response was utilized to collect input from survivors of sexual violence and the responses were used to create text-based mixed media artworks.

     These pieces can be embraced by larger communities where survivors may lean on other people for processing and collective acknowledgment.

     The title “Y(our)” is intended to represent individual and collective storytelling, combining both you and our. This project will allow viewers of the exhibited artworks to live with the survivor’s words for a short while and honor their resilience. The art pieces explore expressive modalities of storytelling and will be publicly disseminated through art exhibition and online platforms.

     “Pieces of Y(our) Story” created pathways to formal and informal support which resulted in a platform for survivors to share their survival story and request how they would like to be supported by their community. The current project has implications for future expanded endeavors, with the potential to be a continued art series parallel to the series of survivals that victims of sexual violence overcome.

y(our)           

story

y(our) story

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Survivors were encouraged to think of a piece of their story that they felt ready to share. These are a few responses that they chose to contribute.

My mother tells me I’m not trying hard enough to get over this and the key is to stop speaking about it.

An innocence is robbed from you but that doesn’t mean your strength and courage is.

You use these to keep moving forward and use your traumas as a steppingstone into a new life where your healing is the air that keeps you alive.

Objectively, I know it was not my fault. Someday I will get there. And I can’t wait. I can’t wait to be mad at him instead of myself.

I am no longer a victim. I am a fucking survivor. I am no longer stifled. I am LOUD. I am now a survivor that wants to help other survivors.

They just get to keep living their lives like they didn’t ruin mine.

He emptied me of my innocence and replaced it with dark shame. He denied everything. Mom believed him. Never, before or since, have I ever felt so alone.

I was drifting off to sleep, a nap, and started letting the story in – breathing it in, so it can be heard; then, releasing it – breathing out the pain and shame that have engulfed me, my entire life.

Sex was shameful, wrong, sinful to enjoy. Therefore, I was to be shameful, wrong and sinful if I ever enjoyed sex.

In telling my story, in these beginnings, I’m already finding this freedom, these realizations keep coming.

I hope that love and safety is possible again. Violence is easy, but survival is hard.

y(our) representation

y(our) representation

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Survivors got the chance to have a voice in how they were represented in the artworks by sharing artistic elements that they associate with their survival story. This included whichever colors, marks, or textures came to mind when they brought their attention to the various narratives they shared.

It was such a cold night, I remember being so cold. My body still feels cold when I get triggered. Can you make the painting warm?

Dark grey clouds at the top and they swirl down in gradient then it turns lights blue and then yellow and then red and purple all intertwined.

Pistachio green, thin fabrics, that ripple easily under your fingertips, bloodstains.

Grass, dirt, green, yellow, pale pink, shag carpet, paper, dark blue, bruises, handprints, stars.

Striking red, black, yellow, and white. Layered and pieces hidden.

A lot of dark colors, not necessarily black. Spotlight. Lurking in the dark.

Black, heart, jagged edges, warmth through connection.

Black and gray, thick paint, lines of all different sizes going all different directions. A little bit of white peeking through.

Vibrant red, a wash of blue. Fluid washes of blue with occasional violent scars of red

Colors: deep red turning to blue and purple.
Marks: Thick and heavy turning to thinner and lighter ones. Textures: Rough, jagged and tears to a smoother surface.

Darkness and shadow.

y(our)  community

y(our) community

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Participants responded to the question: How would you like your community to support you as a survivor?

I wish people would just listen without questions, without the look of confusion, disgust, or disbelief.

I think the most supportive thing my community could do is this project. The idea of someone else taking my story and displaying it from their perspective sounds incredibly healing because I know it will be a kinder perspective than I have of my experience.

Believe survivors of ALL kinds! Don’t minimize or diminish someone’s experience by comparing it to society’s expectations of what a rape survivor “should” look like.

Encourage me to keep sharing my story so that I know people believe me.

Have empathy. Be gentle and kind. Educate yourself. Believe survivors.

I would like my community to support me in my decision to become a psychologist to help others through their trauma.

I’d like the community to do more than think of survivors as “them.”

I would like my community to support me by not telling me how “strong” I am or was and instead letting me cry or be held in silence. Support me by letting me be all that I am and not just the sexual harm that I experienced.

my future lovers- support me by listening and not analyzing.

other survivors of sexual violence- support me by recognizing that we are as different as we are the same

I would love for my community to listen. Just listening is helpful.

I am finally at a point where I am starting to tell my story. I want to contribute my story, because there is so much freedom in knowing I’m not alone. I want to share that. We are not alone.

merudjina

merudjina

artist statement

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You are invited to listen to the sound scape while viewing the virtual gallery.

artist statement

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Don’t Touch The Art is a reminder, a celebration, a moment, and a truth. This is a celebration of the body, a graduation of the body, a return to the body, and a meditation on the process and journey of healing from sexual trauma through a reclamation of mind, body, heart, and soul.

It is a journey and a meditation through the mediums of paintings and sound. This project was created in response to a violence that occurs daily and to many, regardless of race, gender, class, and identity. I created this originally for black survivors because often times we are erased in the statistics centered around sexual violence.

I created this because I was hurt, I was angry, and I wanted to connect to the world. I do not want to be silent, so they can say I enjoyed it.

sound scape

sound scape

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MERUDJINA INVITES YOU TO LISTEN
WHILE VIEWING THE GALLERY

“There are 9 audio pieces that I created from a script telling a vague and vulnerable story about healing from sexual violence. There is a mix of poetry and prose. I was interested in pre recorded audio because you can use repetition and so many audio tools in order to invoke a feeling and a sound. I want my work to be viewed with sound because there are multiple ways to receive and sense and tell a story. These pieces were co-written with Leo D. Martinez, a friend, a survivor, and a writer.”

feedback wall

feedback wall

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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
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Breathe Room

Virtual Tour

CONTACT & SURVEY LINKS
Schedule a Tour
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Awakenings is Supported by

Jean Cozier

The Arts Work Fund

The Chicago Foundation for Women

The Illinois Arts Council Agency

The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Larry W. McCurdy Family Foundation

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES
Resources
Breathe Room

Virtual Tour

CONTACT & SURVEY LINKS
Schedule a Tour
Please Take Our Survey
Awakenings is Supported by

Jean Cozier

The Arts Work Fund

The Chicago Foundation for Women

The Illinois Arts Council Agency

The City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

The Larry W. McCurdy Family Foundation