It is often said that the majority of Americans are one or two paychecks away from being homeless. This is a reality that I unwittingly became familiar with after losing my own job of 18 years. I began to notice displaced individuals and their families. One question always came to mind: how did they get there? That one question led me down the path to tell their stories and to find a way to incorporate them into my art. I began making trips to downtown Dallas to search out individuals who had been banished into this apparently hidden and ignored society. The majority of the general population tends to automatically assume that the homeless are either alcoholics or drug addicts. While this may be true for some of them, I set out to understand their stories of who they are and how they got there.
I realized after researching endless amounts of online data from cities and the federal government that I needed to talk to people, one on one. On my first trip to downtown Dallas I met “John” and struck up a conversation with him and we talked for over 4 hours. I left that night with a heartbreaking story, a journal full of notes, and twenty photographs, feeling more humbled than I ever thought I could be. He never asked for anything from me and within an hour he told me the events that were the catalyst that sent his life spiraling out of control. He was just like you or me, living the American dream. He had a fantastic job, a beautiful house, a wife whom he adored, and a little girl. “Lily” was his everything and to say he adored this little girl was an understatement. One afternoon he came home to find several fire trucks and paramedics in his yard. His wife was hysterical and his daughter was unresponsive and unable to be saved. The neighbor accidently ran over “Lily” while backing out of the drive. This was his catalyst. He ultimately lost everything, his job, his wife, and most importantly “Lily.”
In my drawings I attempt to tell the stories of these often ignored members of society. I draw the initial sketches with my left hand in order to create a loose interpretation of the subject. I then use my right hand to draw certain elements of the face in realistic detail as a focal point. Since the individuals are homeless I use depth of field for the background to create a hazy, foggy, dark setting. I interview each person for 3-4 hours trying to understand the reason they became homeless. I also make watercolor sketches and detailed notes of their story during the interview. I try to take between 15-20 photographs to create the artwork. Most of the photographs are candid photos but I try to pose them for at least two of the photos. I pose them to reference master works from the Renaissance period. As a reference point I insert the latitude and longitude of where I spoke to them, this is their home. It is my hope that this collection of work will show a different perspective of the homeless population, and that in the future they are not ignored and are actually seen as people who are attempting to do the best they can, and that they have a story, if only we would take time to listen.