Marylhurst student Jennifer Whitten will exhibit paintings in a show titled What Silence Sounds Like at Clackamas Community College’s Wilsonville campus through October 2016, to coincide with National Domestic Violence Awareness month.
Jennifer Whitten’s collection of acrylic paintings on mixed media address the silence surrounding domestic violence, as well as the silencing of violence survivors themselves. Jennifer’s paintings portray some of the emotion, confusion and identity loss that occurs for violence victims, in what the artist hopes to be a relatable manner.
Having painted since her childhood, it wasn’t until Jennifer began studying art therapy at Clackamas Community College that she became serious about her art. After getting out of a long-term relationship with an abusive partner and the father of her eight-year-old son, Jennifer connected with the idea of expressing her emotions through art.
“I’ve been calling this collection a ‘visual memoir’ because it is meant to capture moments, memories and emotions from my own experience in an abusive relationship,” she said. “As a survivor of abuse, I am keenly aware of the silence surrounding domestic violence.”
It’s been three years since Jennifer and her son managed to escape domestic abuse and through the healing process she found that art therapy helped her process and move forward, saying that that art has always been helpful in sorting and expressing her emotions. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2016 — when she started to verbally write a memoir — that she found herself pulling out her sketchbook to convey emotions that words failed to describe, which became the foundation for What Silence Sounds Like.
But despite her dedication to her pieces and conveying the powerful nature of her subject matter, Jennifer is careful about balancing her separation and involvement levels with her work. “It’s not easy and it can still be a difficult place to access — it’s a place that I visit but I don’t want to live there,” she said. “While I don’t want to set up shop and live here, I can go on strategic missions and help people who also don’t want to live there.”
Jennifer wants her work to help facilitate conversations about domestic violence and to encourage people to speak out against threatening behavior. “It’s happening where we work, go to school, play, right next to us,” she said. “Don’t let it be something that hides in the corner. We need to know it’s happening.”
To play her part, Jennifer said that she’s happy even if her pieces only spark a conversation around domestic violence between a few students because you never know who you could be helping just by listening and being accepting and engaged.
In the future, Jennifer hopes to continue to use art to promote health and healing through a career in art therapy. With her unique combination of experiences and background, she feels confident that she will be able to meet people where they’re at.
“I can talk that talk,” she said, “because I have walked the walk.”
What Silence Sounds Like will be available to view at the Clackamas Community College Wilsonville campus gallery (29353 Town Center Loop E) through October 28, 2016. For more information about the exhibition, email Joyce Gabriel at email@example.com or call 503.594.0950.
This news item features excerpts from an article by Claire Colby published in the Wilsonville Spokesman on September 28, 2016. » Read the full article on PamplinMedia.com
Jennifer Whitten is a student at Marylhurst University, working toward her B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies, art therapy preparatory track. She holds an associate’s degree in digital media from Clackamas Community College.