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Shades on Faces

I began this project in February, post election, post inauguration, at the height of social collision. Chicago housed Women’s and science marches, not my president rallies, and the UIC campus stank sour of fear, mourning the reality of shift in American culture; people were either, silent, or roaring with a fiery angst.

Like many journalists and public figures have pointed out; I noticed around me that having a civil and organized conversation was and is still almost impossible to have. Either people are too fearful to speak up or rather too sad. Some are worried about the effect of their political views with the friendships around them while others find a state of ignorance as safety.

I have witnessed grown adults threatening each other and, family members unfriending one another (both online and not). I have witnessed hate and lash outs on all social media platforms, exposing the truest and darkest eruptive reactions. All of this stemming from the disorganization of conversation and the reluctance to just listen.

Most importantly, I found that the events conspiring shined on different people in many different ways, reflecting new emotions, and new reactions, and new identities.

I for one know I am not perfect. For so long, the support of Donald Trump would make my heart race and my blood pressure rise. My stomach would tangle in knot after knot after knot, until the twisting and turning left me feeling nauseous. I took their opinions as personal. If they support Trump, they first and foremost don’t respect me as a woman. They are complacent with American rape culture. They don't see privilege or racism as an issue in this country and just don't care about people that are different from them.

And that’s just not always true.

Believe it or not...... Trump supporters are humans, and they also have stories.

Observing this around me, I became inspired and I decided that I wanted to listen and I wanted to understand.

I began to interview and record stories, reactions, and feelings of my friends and also strangers. I talked with these humans about their backgrounds, how they felt about themselves, their favorite memories, and then I dove deeper: their relationships, their fears, and their place in this world, at this moment.

Some of MY BEST friends, whom I cherish as close as blood, led bread crumbs into worlds I had never talked with them before, uncovering a life I was excited to learn about.

Based on these stories they shared, I echoed their voices into paint strokes. Like events in the world suggesting different reactions from different individuals, the paint strokes reflected the human’s own battles, own struggles.

Here is a sneak peek of some of my beautiful muses.

"I'm a Unicorn. I'm not what white people expect me to be. I don’t want white America to sympathize black pride, and take it as fearful. It’s actually great to be black, and we need to use that towards our advantage. I don’t want someone to feel sorry for me. "

-Misha Neal

"If I could do anything I would want to have a crazy open forum where I could talk to everyone in the world at the same time. Talking, Empathy, group therapy for the world. It’s me trying to be as positive as I can."

-Nick Watkins

"My mom is my inspiration, I’ve always looked to her for my culture, and we’ve always joked about politics in primaries and such, but seeing her and hearing her sob every time we talk about politics and knowing that she’s afraid for her brothers and sisters and grandma. It’s really frightening to see someone like you’re mom who is supposed to be a rock that fragile. Seeing executive orders being signed, if lay down and be sad then I can’t help her and all her fears will come true. Our generation is so powerful. I always think of my mom when I write to senators, and march and make signs. You shouldn’t be afraid of your leader, you shouldn’t cry because of your leader, that’s not how it should be. My mom has given me everything, and sacrificed everything, I just want to- give back to her. "

-Kayla Kreutzer

"It was on Sept 11 and we were watching a remembrance video and this kid mumbled to the girl next to him, and scoffed “fucking Arabs” and I wanted to get out my desk and say something but I turned around and said “are you serious, that was ignorant” Think what you want about 9/11, but you shouldn't say that .You never see that a “Catholic Man shot down blah blah,” but you always link Muslim religion to terrorist’s acts, and it's really disrespectful. It's ostracizing a huge group of people. "

-Sophia Shalabi

So here’s my plan:. I want a bijillion more people to join me. I want to listen to their story, their cause, their pain, their freedoms and then I want to cake paint on their face. And have the colors revealed around the softness of their cheeks, the crevices of their forehead, and the wrinkles around their eyes to reveal be the resemblance of their story, and my story and why we as individuals, as different and diverse as we are, are really just shades of each other.

I want you. I want liberals and conservatives and people in-between. I want people who don't know or even care about politics. I want humans. I want storytellers and I want them now. I want to create a book of beautiful strangers.

You know where to find me…… please let me paint your story.

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