Past Exhibition: ‘This Is My Story'
An Online Exhibition (Advent 2020)
All the paths of the Lord are love . . . .
~ Psalm 25:9
St. Michael’s Advent 2020 exhibition is “This Is My Story: Women and Homelessness.” A collaboration between artist Susan Cornelis; Sonoma, California’s The Living Room, a day shelter for women and mothers with children who are experiencing homelessness; and Justicewise, a nonprofit dedicated to regenerative social change, the project provides an intimate look at the lives of women who are or who have been homeless.
During a year-and-a-half of volunteer work at The Living Room, Susan made friends with the women and children, led art and meditation groups, and sketched stories about shelter activities.
“As the women got to know me,” Susan says, “they talked about their lives, let me sketch their portraits, and helped me to tell their stories. When the pandemic hit and the doors were shut to indoor services, I sketched the transition and switched to [creating] portraits of women wearing masks as they came for food and other services at the outdoor location.”
By sharing the women’s stories in a unique and relatable way, Susan is helping to erase judgment of and encourage empathy for a group of individuals whom society has dehumanized. Each portrait story is unique and breaks down the illusion of a “typical homeless person.”
As you read the portrait stories, you might, like Susan, find yourself wishing that you, too, could get to know these women and children more personally, to learn how they found the strength to deal with adversity, including surviving without a home.
“My own life,” Susan remarks, “has been immeasurably enriched [by] these encounters and the generosity of women willing to share their difficult stories.”
A collaboration between artist Susan Cornelis; Sonoma, California’s The Living Room, a day shelter for women and mothers with children who are experiencing homelessness; and Justicewise, a nonprofit dedicated to regenerative social change, the project provides an intimate look at the lives of women who are or who have been homeless.
Click on each portrait to enlarge the image and …Read More »
Susan Cornelis, M.S.W., is a watercolor artist and mixed-media workshop teacher who most recently has been documenting the personal stories of women experiencing homelessness, as well as challenging events or circumstances surrounding fire recovery, climate change, and nursing homes.
Combining ink and watercolor drawings with words, Susan’s illustrations are a kind of visual jou…Read More »
The Living Room
The Living Rooms (TLR) is Sonoma, California’s only day shelter for homeless women and mothers with children.
As is portrayed in the artist’s illustrations, “This Is My Story” features the lives of women who found respite, care, compassion, and support at The Living Room (TLR) before COVID-19. What was to become of these women and children when the shelter had t…Read More »
As you view Susan Cornelis’s portraits and read the unique personal stories of the women who depend on The Living Room’s services, consider the following questions:
- When you hear the phrase “typical homeless person,” what do you visualize?
- How do the artist’s portraits of the women change your perception(s) of a “typical homeless person”?
- What feelings or experiences expressed or de…