I am an interdisciplinary artist who weaves stories together using mixed media, ceramics, needlework, and jewelry making techniques intermixed with community engagement, place making, and Christian ministry practices. My work exists at the intersection of art, community, justice, and place. The place in which I center my practice is QC Family Tree-a community organization working at the intersection of faith, culture, and social change, rooted in the Enderly Park neighborhood of West Charlotte. QCFT practices cultural organizing to cultivate community for the common good. Q FT is creating little villages centered around justice, imagination, and mutual care. It is located in the West Charlotte neighborhood of Enderly Park- a neighborhood that bears the wounds of economic injustice and racial oppression.
For the past 15 years, a shared life and the practices of hospitality, creativity, and prayer are what have kept me rooted and they spark holy imagination. The art I create expresses my deep and genuine love for this place and these people. I find that when I am able to embody what I believe, I am at my best. Sometimes that embodiment takes the form of color, shape, and design aesthetic and other times, that embodiment takes shape in movement, organizing, spiritual disciplines, and relationships.
Alexia Salvatierra told me once that “prayer is the way humans relate to God’s spirit. Culture is the way humans relate to God’s soul.” I believe art and culture bearing has the power to transform the individual and collective soul. As Co Creators, made in the image of God, we are called to live into and incarnate God’s love, shalom, and hoped for community. Our embodiment of God’s kin-dom takes shape through song, food, worship, prayer, art, movement, and other creative practices.
Because the population of the QC Family Tree neighborhood is changing rapidly, I find myself artfully exploring grief and loss. Other issues my work addresses: racial equity, intersections, social justice, faith, church complicity, place. I also notice within me a desire to mark, through visual art, the change. I am interested in finding ways to build power and make social change through artistic practice. I am currently working on a rubric by which an artist could determine whether their artwork is building power.
Art provides me an opportunity to pray inwardly as well as express outwardly. My most recent visual art projects have centered around neighborhood based work including:
Visual Arts- Installations or online tours
The Saints- After Trevon Martin died and then Michael Brown, we heard our youth crying “that could be me.” The language of “thugs” and the negative messaging of black bodies was so very loud. Creating the saints was my way of remessaging, telling the truth this time. The saints are meant to say, “Young people, your lives matter. You matter. Your story matters. You are beautiful. You are loved.” [topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, sacred]
Beloved- A piece made in conjunction with the West Side Community Listening Project incorporating painting, collage, ceramic tile, and wire. “I have lived in Enderly Park for 12 years. Many of the first neighbors I got to know have had to leave the neighborhood due to an increase in rental costs. I love the people and place I call home- at the corner of Tuckaseegee and Parkway. If I could, I would secure permanent housing for all of our Beloved and I would keep us close to each other so that we can continue to cultivate caring community with one another.”[topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, housing, sacred]
Creation- [in progress] A set of 8 totems representing different days of creation: void, light/dark, water/sky, plants, sun/moon/stars, sea life, animals, and rest. [joy, narrative, environment]
Reliquary: Evicted- Drawing awareness to and honoring the many who have been evicted from West side neighborhoods by uplifting evicted items within a sacred altar reliquary. Recording West side evictions locations, mapping neighborhood change, and creating an altar to for grieving loss as well as public education. [topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, housing, sacred, place]
How Bright the Path- A collaborative piece sponsored by “Art of Recycling” and Art and Science Council, working with Laurie Smithwick. Collaged stories from the neighborhood layered with monoprints from the streets in Enderly Park. This piece is currently exhibited in the Bette Rae Thomas Recreational Center on Tuckaseegee Rd. [ joy, narrative, housing, place, racial justice, humanity]
Ordinary Sacred- Exploring the sacred of the ordinary through miniature mixed media wall altars: curtains, garden, dishes, laundry, door.[joy, narrative, environment, sacred, humanity]
Stamps of Approval Impactful- Using the Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes in Arts for Change resource, I have created a series of stamps to use to communicate when an artist has made social impact with their work. I have used these stamps in thank you cards as well as in evaluation of workshops. [justice, organizing, antidote to scarcity, humanity, anti-racism]
Illuminary- A series of ceramic luminaries built in the shape of homes, each one housing one of the Neighborhood Saint Icons. [topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, sacred] Work in Progress
Baptismal: Water of Life- a mixed media piece pointing out the economic and health disparities of geographic regions within Charlotte, asking questions about faith and church complicity in disparities. [topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, housing, sacred, place]
Community Engagement Workshops/Classes/Experiments
Rental Equity Dreams Party- a creative workshop generating solutions for increasing equity of renters [justice, organizing, antidote to scarcity, humanity, housing, anti-racism]
Sanctuary- an installation of holy objects for gallery view + worship elements such as song, prayer, sermon. (Work in progress)[topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, housing, sacred, place]
“Wednesday Night Bible Study”- small group tour of Baptismal: Water of LIfe and Reliquary visual art with community conversation and talk back. [topics: racial justice, economic justice, faith, humanity, housing, sacred, place]
Stamps of Impactful toolkit and workshop [justice, organizing, antidote to scarcity, humanity, anti-racism]
1223 Clay Avenue
Medium: Evicted belongings, fabric, paint, adhesive
Year Completed: 2019
Description: Reliquary: Evicted is a series of 3 sacred containers inside of which evicted belongings are held. This reliquary honors a West Charlotte neighbor, who loved to garden. She was evicted in the fall of 2019.
Baptismal: Water of Life
26 x 30’
Medium: clay, coffee stain, wood, glass jars, water from neighborhood creekbeds,
Year Completed: 2020
Description: Neighborhood. Average age of death. “Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.”
I am building a body of work entitled “Sanctuary” that honors the sacred in the ordinary while also drawing attention to justice issues experienced in Charlotte, NC. “Sanctuary” will include holy objects such as: Reliquary, Baptismal Font, Communion Table, Chalice, Paten, Pulpit, and Vestments. Found objects are the primary materials used to create each piece. The works compel the viewer to consider the intersection of faith, justice, and social change.
“Sanctuary” is a series of 2D and 3D works, that honor the sacred in the ordinary and draw attention to justice issues as they are experienced in West Charlotte, NC. They also raise the question of the role of the Church in these issues. Ideally set in a church sanctuary, the works include liturgical objects made from found materials. Each object- Reliquary, Baptismal Font, Communion Table, Chalice, Paten, Pulpit, Vestment- compels the viewer to consider the intersection of faith, justice, and social change. “Sanctuary” is an extension of the Reliquary works Helms created as a part of her artist residency at the McColl Center for Arts and Innovation. Reliquary: Evicted is a series of 3 sculptures made from items found at eviction sites. The pieces honor those who have been evicted from West Charlotte and they ask the question, “How could the Church let this happen?”
The first of the pieces made in this series, Reliquary: Evicted, centered around grief and trauma of eviction in our city. Reliquary: Evicted those who have been evicted to sainthood status by honoring their belongings inside sacred containers. The Baptismal Font: Water of Life piece is a ceramic font and a collection of 12 jars of water. The waters are taken from local creeks in Charlotte and labeled with the neighborhood name and average age of death. Baptismal Font: Water of Life highlights disparities that exist geographically due to racial segregation in Charlotte. Participants are asked to ponder: which water they would choose for their baptism. What does it mean to be baptized into a community of people for whom experiences of life are vastly different based on race and socio economic status?
Sanctuary is deeply rooted in place and in the culture and tradition, symbols and meaning from the Christian faith tradition influence the work. This project makes use of found objects in its work, taking care to include naturally occurring resources into the pieces. Sanctuary compels folks to reflect on their participation in social justice and their ability to make change, transforming for the common good.