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Portraits of the Homeless, Part V: Completion/The View from the Top

Yesterday I finished the last homeless portrait of the four, and it is in the frame shop as of this morning.

What a journey! What an incredible project to be immersed in for the last few months. In reference to the last post's hiking analogy, the mountain that I saw before me at the beginning is now the chunk of land whose summit I stand upon. At the start I had certain expectations and fears. For instance, given my personality I thought that I would be an emotional mess through all of it. I wasn't. Towards the end I became tired from working with very few breaks (self-imposed), and that made me tear up some, but I wasn't ever drained from the people themselves. They are inspirational and true motivators, dreamers of good things, jokers and laughers, my teachers. At the commencement of this project, I thought I wouldn't have anything in common with the homeless. I even googled, "How to talk to homeless people" before I left the house to go to the Bridge Emergency Shelter for the first time. Turns out you just say hello and ask about their day. My husband and I have the same conversation when we meet in the evenings. Returning to the analogy of hiking the mountain, upon viewing the structure before me, it looked blue in the distance. Existing here and now at the top, I realize that the mountain under my feet is actually brown, green, red, black, orange, and purple. And I look out to where I once stood, at the beginning of this project, the trail head of my own dreams for this work, alone with my paintbrushes and some drinking water, and I see the faces of the people who I met along the way---whose essences I attempted to capture---and I am no longer alone. They are going their own ways now, on other trails to other mountains, but I am forever grateful for the grace and kindness that they have shown me as I stumbled along my own overgrown, less traveled path. My appreciation also extends to the director of the Bridge, Laurie, and the two beautiful volunteers I met, Shemeah and Hannah.

A fundraiser for the Bridge happens on May 2, 2015 at 7 pm at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez, Colorado. These portraits will be displayed at that time, along with other works of art from the Shelter. After the fundraiser, the portraits will circulate to different businesses who have sponsored the Bridge. And I believe that they will finally hang at the Bridge as their final destination. Here is the link for the fundraiser event, Faces of Folk: https://thebridgeshelter.org/event/faces-of-folk/

This is the view from the top...

 Left:  Acceptance: A Portrait of Shemeka ; Right:  Talent: A Portrait of Lewis

Left: Acceptance: A Portrait of Shemeka; Right: Talent: A Portrait of Lewis

Shemeka was the first person to consent to let me paint her portrait. Spirited and up for anything, she was thrilled to become my first subject. When I spoke with her about her hopes and dreams, in so many words she said that she wants to be accepted by others and to be able to accept her own challenges. When I first met her, she described "brick walls" in her life, and so I felt it important to turn those "walls" into open space/liberty. She also loves the color purple and is an Aquarius. Her portrait has flowing water, an image of freedom, which is being accepted into an outstretched hand. Per her request, I included the zig-zagging Aquarius sign which is a part of the wrist and also deals with the flow of water. Stretched throughout the piece is netting that I thought would be appropriate to the Aquarian theme, as well as a symbol representing her ability to catch her dreams. Flying birds are representing her liberation. Welcoming smiles surround her in acceptance. Her piece is called, Acceptance: A Portrait of Shemeka.

Lewis was the second person to agree to let me capture his likeness. A gentle spirit, he was soft spoken at first, but I could sense his enthusiasm as he continued to speak. He works in construction and builds homes from the ground up. His hope is to have consistent work in this career. He also plays the guitar, mostly enjoying southern rock. Lewis requested that his portrait be in black and white, and so I was happy to accommodate him. Nailed to his canvas are actual pieces of wood to represent his goals. When I asked him what he most wanted in life, he replied with the question: "Anything?" I said yes. He replied that he wishes he could go back in time, and so his portrait has clocks turning back. In reality, I feel as though he continues to be youthful and that his talents will continue to take him farther than he can ever imagine no matter what age he appears to be on the outside. His piece is called, Talent: A Portrait of Lewis.

 Left:  Ambition: A Portrait of Woodrow ; Right:  Heart: A Portrait of Midawna

Left: Ambition: A Portrait of Woodrow; Right: Heart: A Portrait of Midawna

Woodrow and Midawna have been married for nine years. And I have heard through the grapevine that they have indeed found a place to live since I began this project. A huge congratulations is in order! Woodrow's biggest dreams are to be able to employ others, be able to help others, have a healthy baby, and see the world. He requested red and black for his colors. Although not visible in the photo, I used burlap in Woodrow's portrait to express sturdiness and quality. His piece is called, Ambition: A Portrait of Woodrow.

Midawna's greatest hope is to be a good mother and to have a home in which to raise her family. I did not learn her favorite colors or preference for her portrait, and so I used blues and greens for a calming effect and to bring out her lovely blue eyes. I also incorporated earth tones for a sense of grounding, of coming home. Her only mixed media are dried tea bags along the left edge. The fragility of the tea bags represents the need for care and loving handling---those things which she most wishes she could do for others. Tea also represents warmth and hospitality. We say that "home is where the heart is," and so her piece is called, Heart: A Portrait of Midawna.

Thank you for reading this post. I wish you safe travels on your own path.