Thursday, April 23, 2015

Visual Blog Post By Mixed Media Artist Micheline Montgomery

Christal Cooper

Article – 673 Words
*first appeared in Art Journaling by Somerset Studio

Guest Blogger Micheline Montgomery
The Voiceless

       International news captivates my interest, especially humanitarian and social issues.  The Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013, has affected me deeply.  The factory  collapsed killing 1,129 people, mostly women and children, and left as many injured. 

Since the tragedy, I have read countless articles about the fate of garment workers across the globe.  These frequently report harsh, unsafe conditions and long hours with little-to-no breaks, no emergency exit, and minute space to accomplish their repetitive work.  In addition, many are away from family and friends.  It must be so difficult for them to develop any sense of identity . . . the workers become “Voiceless.”

       These concerns, along with society’s ignorant bliss as to where and how their clothing is made, led me to reflect and search how, as an artist, I can help make a contribution.  It took me months of trial and error to arrive at the statement I am making now.

       There has since been some headway in improving conditions for workers, though slow.  Several European and North American businesses have created a coalition to help and compensate surviving workers, improve their working conditions, and insist on transparent ethical practices; Joe Fresh, Mountain Equipment Coop, and Nike are among them.  Social media is also contributing to their increase of public awareness about the origin of our clothing.

       At first, I thought of creating a visual journal relating events and media comments over a period of time.  I even started to select material from my readings and my studio.  After further reflection, I decided against that idea.  As I was looking around my home studio one morning, my eyes landed on a small accordion book made of recycled paper fibers . . . something felt right about it.

       I started to isolate the main elements I wanted to highlight in my project, such as the assembly line, the garments, and the absence of possibility for workers to have a voice.  The accordion book has six pages and two sides, and when opened, it suits the idea of an assembly line.  I decided to cut mini paper dresses out of different materials but in the same size to represent the garment factory and the “voicelessnesss” of the workers – hence the absence of a body, and even more so, the head.

       I chose a palette of five of my favorite colors:  yellow, orange, red, turquoise, and white.  Warmer colors gave me a feeling of hope.  I made an attempt to intermingle all the colors in some way on each page, adding small printed excerpts from articles.  The joined pages helped to achieve the feeling of the anonymity of the workers.  For materials, I used everything that supported my statement:  colored and textured paper, teabag paper, handmade paper, glue, gel, sparkles, paint and ribbon.

       I overlapped parts of some of the dresses with the hope that perhaps the workers made a friend or two in the midst of a difficult situation.  To finish the project, I made an envelope-like cover with an inner pocket in which I inserted a brief description of the work.  I bound the envelope with a paper dress and a ribbon in order to keep it together.  There is always hope – by untying the ribbon you can set them free.

       It took me four months to complete this project.  What I have gained from the experience is a better appreciation and understanding of the human condition.  It is up to each one of us to decide how we can and wish to contribute.  As the Dalai Lama said, “If you think that you are too small to make a difference, trying sleeping with a mosquito.”

       *Michelin Montgomery is a mixed-media artist who enjoys various forms of art, from sculpture to large paintings, hand-painted journals, and sketchbooks.  She also teachers freelance workshops and classes for adults and children on making art with eco-conscious materials.  Micheline presently lives in the Greater Toronto area.

Photograph Description And Copyright Information

Photo 1
Micheline Montgomery
Copyright granted by Micheline Montgomery

Photo 2
Ariel view of the building after it’s collapse
CCASA 2.0 Generic License

Photo 3
Board with photos of missing people, posted by relatives.
Photos taken by Sharat Chowdhury, permission obtained from him for use in Wikipedia under CC attribution.
Attributed to Sharat Chowdhury
OTRS and CCA2.5 Generic

Photo 4
Rescuers found yet another survivor.
Photos taken by Sharat Chowdhury, permission obtained from him for use in Wikipedia under CC attribution.
Attributed to Sharat Chowdhury
OTRS and CCA2.5 Generic

Photo 5
Side view of the collapsed building
Attributed to Sharat Chowdhury
OTRS and CCA2.5 Generic

Photo 6
Micheline Montgomery in her studio
Copyright granted by Micheline Montgomery

Photo 7, 8, 9, and 10
“Voiceless” by Micheline Montgomery
Copyright granted by Micheline Montgomery

Photo 11
January/February/March 2015 magazine cover of ART JOURNALING BY SOMERSET STUDIO in which Micheline Montgomery’s “Voiceless” originally appeared.

Photo 12 and 13
“The Voiceless” by Micheline Montgomery
Copyright granted by Micheline Montgomery

Photo 14
The Dalia Lama
Fair Use Under the United States Copyright Law

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