Many, Many Faces: a fundraising art project!

Gaya Morris - Senegal


September 5, 2009

As you may already have heard, each GCY fellow has committed to fundraise a minimum of 2000 dollars before our departure. We have been writing letters, emails, talking to friends and family and some fellows have even hosted events in their home communities. The idea is that, besides of course raising needed funds, we will learn how to become advocates for what we believe in, which is this organization and the importance of understanding across gaps to end inequality, ignorance and divisions….

Because GCY is not just about us. It’s about exchange and connections: both learning from and influencing others.


So, with that in mind, I came up with a sort of inventive way to fundraise. Basically, my idea is to supplement my fundraising (assuming I do indeed have anything at all to supplement) by doing commissioned portraits. I am very excited about this idea because I think it has the potential to achieve a couple things at once: it will allow me to continue to develop as an artist during my gap year, it will allow donors to feel significantly involved in the GCY movement (to contribute practically with money, but more than that), it will create a visual documentation of my experience, and last but not least, it will raise money.
I have pasted below a more detailed description of the intent of my project. All I have done so far is to send this description out to various contacts in fundraising emails. I have also purchased art supplies and have started working on my first few commissions. Tomorrow, I will be setting up a booth at the local farmer’s market here in Hingham, MA to advertise the portraiture and to hopefully involve people in the community. Very exciting! I will let you know how it goes.

Many, Many Faces is, at this point, an idea for an art project that I hope to work on both before, during and after my experience in Senegal, that will both contribute to my fundraising and invite others to participate in realization of the GCY vision: a vision for a world bettered by awareness, understanding and conscious connections between people across physical, economic and cultural gaps. I envision Many, Many Faces to be, quite simply, a series of portrait images that will document the people I will meet along my journey in Senegal, and that will bring them and their world as close to you in spirit as possible. I will take digital images and sketch as much as possible while away, although most of the painting will have to wait until I return. And then, mixed among the portraits of the Senegalese will be portraits of friends, family and others from here at home. Whether the juxtaposition will emphasize differences and disparities between our separate worlds, or reveal the similarities, only time will tell.

If interested in adding your face to the mix, or simply of having a portrait done of your family, friends, and loved ones (and don’t mind me displaying it at some point) please email me (gayamorris@gmail.com).

More about me as an artist:

I have always loved to sketch and draw, but high school art classes are certainly what turned a hobby into (dare I say it?) a passion. Starting at the introductory level in my freshman year, I added art to my schedule each year without fail, completing an AP (advanced placement) portfolio during my Junior Year and a full year of an “independent study” in art as a Senior. Besides giving me the skills to reproduce what I see in reality on paper using various media, my teachers introduced me to such things as composition, atmosphere, mark making, and purpose, and taught me to look at my work critically. The art studio quickly became one of my favorite places on campus and served as a sort of home-base throughout my four years.

I always enjoyed still lives and landscapes, but mostly I loved drawing and painting people. I loved finding the little quirks that characterize individuals – the exact arch of an eyebrow, a spark in the eye, angle of the lashes, stray strand of hair, the twitch of the mouth. I sought to capture the glances, gestures and expressions that make each person unique within the atmosphere and setting that defines a particular moment. I roamed the halls of my school with a camera, coaxed friends into sitting still for me on long bus rides, and spent more hours in front of a mirror than I would like to admit. I have been mesmerized by the beauty of a single eyebrow, or a particularly elegant nose – and the depth of a glance in which the inward thoughts shine on the outside. Drawing a happy person, sometimes I catch my own mouth curling up at the corners and there I am, smiling at a piece of paper.

Bringing a person and a past moment to life – that is what excites me most about art, and that is what I hope to accomplish with this portrait series. To allow the viewer to feel the depth, the substance, the essence of each person – to sense that there’s more to a flat face than a smile and two eyes, but that the face has a head, the head a body, the body a mind, a soul, a history, a home, a family, cares, hopes, dreams, and a future. Thats a lot to see in another face, buts its a depth that I believe is important for us to be able to see.

In today’s increasingly “flat and crowded” planet there are just so many faces and its easy to let them all blur past – on TV, in newspapers, in magazines – become parts of a sum of problems too large to fathom. But I know from experience that incredible inspiration and hope can come from discovering an unexpected connection with just one stranger – whether it be a few laughs with a neighbor on a park bench in the city, or a song sung with a villager in some remote corner of Africa. The tips of your stories and your separate worlds intersect and in that little bit that you share the rest of the hidden whole is felt, perhaps not fully understood, but felt. And this is the feeling that I hope this portrait series will inspire in viewers.

Gaya Morris