August 19, 2010

Art + Stories = Activism

Francesco di Santis, a remarkably talented and inspiring co-conspirator, has been traveling for years drawing portraits of folks across the region with oil pastels and different types of clay he has dug from the land. The portraits are beautiful works of art themselves, but central to his work is the stories of the people he draws. The struggles and victories written on these portraits offer a alternative history of the journeys and experiences of the people he came across.

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Cesco drew portraits everywhere. I had heard of his work and one evening after explaining it to a roommate he showed up for a potluck. As Cesco's explains, "Dozens of households embodied this “art-media-social phenomenon” by inviting these creatives amongst themselves, kin, neighbors and associates, supplying them with bed, board and morale for the volunteer service and then asserting their narratives upon the original drawings of themselves. As awareness of The Portrait-Story Project spread, it tended to keep manifesting, provided specific request or explicit desire to participate, which happened by word of mouth or e-mail, and hospitality upon arrival. On these Appalachian Portrait-Stories we have a panorama of expressions: snippets of everyday life, relationship to the land and culture and struggles for empowerment or at least survival - as handwritten by those living it."

For more info on Cesco's work, check these links:

Voices for Appalachia

Portrait Story Project

Mountain Justice

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