ABOUT THE PROJECT
WE STEP INTO THE LIGHT is a continuous global art exhibition that encourages artists from all mediums of art to capture the beauty and strength of those who have survived the trauma of abuse and tragedy and have built thriving lives. The origin of the exhibition comes from the experiences and triumphs of a thriving sexual assault survivor Dr. Desmonette Hazly. Dr. Hazly wanted to have a life centered on her dreams, goals and aspirations and not allow the trauma of rape to be the defining moment of her identity. After writing a creative sensual cookbook to address issues of intimacy and body image, Dr. Hazly recognized the power of art to inspire those who have suffered emotional and physical trauma of abuse to see their beauty and find their strength to live the lives they have always wanted.
WE STEP INTO THE LIGHT partners volunteer artists with survivors who are thriving in their lives despite the pain they have suffered. The artists get to know and understand the thriving models and create an image that represents the growth and uniqueness of the people who triumph over tragedy. Each model that is immortalized in a piece of art writes a brief narrative celebrating their survival and highlighting their will to thrive and be successful in their lives.
On April 16, The Rape Crisis Center of the YWCA of Greater Los Angeles had their first annual Thriving Awards dinner. The event was inspired by Dr. Desmonette Hazly and celebrates thriving individuals who have experienced sexual assault and domestic violence and have gone on to build incredible meaningful lives. The YWCA, as part of the evening’s celebration, hosted the first We Step Into the Light art exhibition. Dr. Hazly volunteered with the YWCA’s Compton Rape Crisis Center when she began her social work career over 16 years ago and felt it was befitting to have the agency host the first art exhibition. A staggering one third of all women globally have been raped or abused in their lifetimes. Many women suffer in silence and do not have the opportunity to rebuild their lives after the trauma. WE STEP INTO THE LIGHT looks to use the power of Art, to shed light on the issue and gives hope by highlighting the lives and beauty of thriving survivors.
Ten Los Angeles area survivors were depicted in artwork by community artists and advanced art students at Cal State Dominguez Hills for the premier of the art exhibition. The artists created portraits of the survivors depicting them in a way that shows their strength. The artwork was displayed on April 16th and then shown at various public buildings throughout Los Angeles. Mickey Melton, Director of the Rape Crisis Center at the YWCA, said the “We Step Into the Light Program” has by itself changed the association’s rape crisis strategies from here forward.
Created as part of the “We Step Into The Light” art exhibit, I had the honor of meeting and mosaicing, Korlah. I brought a list of questions, that I thought might be a good springboard for getting to know her better. The questions ranged from simply, “what is your favorite color” to questions like, “what brings you peace”. Not sure how open Korlah would be to sharing these intimate parts of her life, I was blown away by the insightful and inspiring answers she responded with. Immediately I felt connected with her and knew that my biggest challenge was going to be trying to capture Korlah in just a single piece!
My deepest desire was to express in this portrait, Korlah’s indomitable spirit. I also wanted to do justice to her incredible, radiant beauty. Over the course of our meetings and correspondence I tried to learn about her interests and passions, in the hopes of incorporating them, in some way, into the piece.
To create “Korlah” I knew I would use her favorite colors, but I wanted to hand paint bisque tiles so that I could create natural variation and shading within each color. I also hand sculpted many different images that corresponded with various aspects of her life and dreams. I like to use images like this in unexpected ways, to elaborate on her story. Once all sculpting, glazing, and firings, were complete I was ready to mosaic!
With much anticipation and the portraits finally complete, all of the models and artist came together for a wonderful evening of empowerment through art. The survivors saw their portraits for the first time.
“Korlah” is made almost entirely from hand sculpted and hand painted bisque tile. The space around Korlah represents her poetry and rich inner life. It is filled with text and images reflecting her many interests. Mannequins, dancers, and musical notes represent her fashion designing and dancing, while text points not only to her poetry, but also her aspirations to make a positive difference in the world. Her shirt is reminiscent of a traditional African design, paying homage to the pride of her heritage. In the shirt I hand sculpted children’s hands, representing her charity work and desire to help inner city women and children in need. There is a dove of peace over her heart, more dancers, and also shoes, purses, perfume, clothing, and flowers representing her love of femininity and expressions of creativity.