originally published on October 31, 2005

My current project consists of creating “graphic” portraits of eight African-American women over age 50 who are in various stages of recovery from homelessness. This past summer, with assistance from my college-bound daughter, I video-taped interviews of each of these women as they very kindly shared with me their stories. That is, by the way, the name of the project – “Telling My Story”. I’m on my third “portrait” now and, far from being literal images of their faces, I am creating what is in essence a conceptual portrait made up of a variety of elements composed in such a way as to create some kind of emotional response.

Each of the ladies’ stories is unique. And, as I play back the audio from the interviews, taking notes again as I also look at photos I took and the scrapbooks they created, I find myself being drawn into their stories, often repulsed, more often puzzled, and even more often drawn nearly to tears. But most of all, I am absolutely amazed by their inner strength, facing sometimes the greatest odds for their very survival and that of their dearest loved ones. Their portraits are portraits of survival and a dedication to their inner strengths, their faiths, their personal character.

Ultimately, I am left in awe. We’re each only a thin line from facing the prospect of homelessness. And we each have to ask ourselves… do we have the strength within us to survive? and would we recover? My empathetic response is necessary in order to create an effective portrait. But it draws heavily upon my own emotional state. And I find I must withdraw regularly in order to preserve my own sanity.

Such is the life of an artist, I guess.


The first in the series of “graphic” portraits…


The second in the series of “graphic” portraits…

Monday, October 31, 2005
Mara Jevera Fulmer

Additional blog entries on this project: