THE “HELLO MY NAME IS…” PROJECT
A Collection of Portraits & Personal Recovery Stories
The “Hello My Name Is…” project is a not-for-profit community outreach program sponsored by the Asheville Area Arts Council*. Through this project we are building awareness that people do achieve and sustain recovery from alcohol, drugs, mental health, and other life challenges. Our goal is to break through the social stigma of addiction by focusing on the positive impact of recovery, in the lives of individuals, their families and the community.
As a portrait artist, I use my skills to extract insight and wisdom from people living the brave and powerful experiences unique to the path of recovery. I have recovered a deep, loving relationship with my partner and our families, a network of caring friends, the gift of gratitude and the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of becoming a full-time artist.
Since 2007, I have painted professionally, producing large-format, industrial-influenced, mixed-media abstracts. Even though I really enjoy my abstract work, I have always been drawn to portraiture and have wanted to produce a themed portrait series.
Throughout my career, I have sketched people as a hobby, but never as a professional portrait artist. In January of 2014, I decided to experiment with oil paint and chose to do a self-portrait, which was the beginning of my current project. After completing the self-portrait, I continued sketching portraits of other people. I wanted to create more meaningful artwork. My connection to this project was different from my abstract work. It was as if I were carving the subjects out and pulling them from the paper. I wanted my work to address a social issue or cause; I wanted it to have a voice and a vision.
Addicted people are often filled with shame and experience discrimination. Even in recovery, many of us continue to struggle with these issues. I admit at times I have difficulty being open and honest about my recovery with people outside our recovery community. If we are only as sick as our secrets, why is recovery my biggest secret? How joyous, happy and free can I expect to be when harboring anything that I would not willingly tell another person?
Having been in recovery for just over a year and experiencing the sting of negative social stigma associated with addiction, I realized I had found my subject matter. A few months later, the “Hello My Name Is . . .” project came to life. This undertaking has allowed me to reach out to others in recovery and connect with them on a deeper level.
It is now my mission to put faces with recovery, focusing on the positive aspects of the lives of people living this commitment. Recovery is often shrouded in anonymity, as many of us continue to live dual lives – wary of the social stigma associated with addiction. Others simply cut themselves off and isolate from the world at large. I ask, “Where is the freedom in this?”
When a human being is taken to the depths of darkness by addiction and then recovers, a light grows within them. I paint the light I see when I gaze in the mirror, as well as the light I see in recovering people around me. We emerge from the shadows eager to share our newfound hope with others. This project offers a look at the faces of people who have confronted their greatest fears and have decided to unite with the world.
My current work for the Hello My Name Is… project is produced with charcoal white on black paper. I chose this medium to align with the overall concept of emerging from the darkness of addiction into the light of recovery. This concept is also reinforced by the participants themselves stepping outside the shadows and revealing themselves to the world as people of recovery.
A key part of this project I love is giving the participants a voice. A voice which is heard through the personal recovery story that accompanies each portrait. This handwritten story is an opportunity for the individual to speak about their experiences, discuss where their strength lies and to personally share their hope and joy of recovery.
If you are in recovery and would like to share your story of hope contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on project please visit HMNI.org, or follow the project’s progress on Facebook at HelloMyNameIsProject & Twitter@HMNI_Project.
*AAAC is the Fiscal Sponsor of the “Hello My Name Is…” project. For more information or for questions about the AAAC Fiscal Sponsorship program visit: ashevillearts.com