It's been the first week of my residency at Casa Tres Patios in Medellin, Colombia and already it's looking like it will be an exciting and life altering experience. Casa Tres Patios is a contemporary arts center and residency program which hosts artists from Colombia and abroad to do projects in Medellin. Their mission is to link artists with the greater community of Medellin in collaborative social projects that engage the community. Casa Tres Patios have matched me with a non-profit called Mujeres Que Crean . During my time here, I plan to create a series of drawings and a video with women who have been affected by the armed conflict in Colombia. In the first part of the project, the women will look at and make drawings of flowers and birds found in Colombia. Colombia is a rich country in resources; being one of top five in the world in ecological diversity, everywhere you look in the city, you see beautiful and rare flora and fauna, never mind when you actually get out to where the real nature is. In Colombia, nature is simultaneously the site of many conflicting ideas; the sublime, a biblical paradise or environmental eden, while also being the locus of much devastation, the unknown and horror; where people are disappeared, never to be seen again.
Like women and children, the flora and fauna are the most vulnerable victims of war. In the second phase of the project, we will be looking at representations of women throughout art history. I'm interested in how archetypal images of womanhood as virgins, warriors, mothers, and working women can be used as metaphors for some of the experiences these women have had. The women who work with Mujeres Que Crean are either direct victims of the armed-conflict, many have lost a husband, son, or brother and some cases all of their family members through the war that is wielded in the countryside by the guerrilla groups and para-military; while others are younger women who have not experienced war directly, but have grown up in the towns or barrios and "shanty towns" that have sprung up (over many years and now are quite established) and experience day to day violence of growing up in a ghetto. Mujeres Que Crean works with these women to help them process what has happened to them and by empowering them to break the cycle of violence by becoming agents of peace in their communities.
Already, I feel very humbled by this experience, feeling that it is bringing together all the issues and work I've been doing, as a teacher working with at-risk youth and communities and my visual work surrounding issues of women and my love of nature and the way these two can be intertwined. Btw, I saw the most amazing bird called Solitude, I will try to post a picture of him later.