Casa Gialla is a temporary home for young men who have taken refuge in southern Italy. These refugees come to Italy via smugglers, originating from various places throughout the Middle East and Africa. They have survived a harrowing journey by boat across the Mediterranean, spending ten days or more without food on an overcrowded vessel. These people have come to Southern Italy with hope for a future in Europe, escaping religious persecution, war, and desperate poverty.
In the summer of 2015, I worked with the residents of Casa Gialla to raise awareness of their situation and to help them to adjust, using art as both a therapeutic and communicative medium. This project documents the residents through symbolic portraits, placing their image in the sand and against the sea to express the extreme difficulty and voicelessness of their situation.
Additionally, I created a collaborative work together with the refugees, using their own drawings and words to create a wallpaper, with sales benefiting the rescue efforts, in the hopes to further transcend the borders between refugee and Italian. You can purchase the wallpaper and learn more about the design for it here.
In February 2016 I had a solo show entitled Asylum at Edison Community College in Piqua, Ohio. The exhibition included both images and wallpaper from this series as well as a broader range of paintings and collages that related the refugee stories to my own familial history of migration. There was 1000 folded origami boats made from the refugee-designed wallpaper placed in the middle of the floor. Viewers were asked to take a boat in exchange for a donation to the UNHCR. Exhibition installation images can be seen below.