Visual artist Farah Art Griffin EDM '08 shares how the Heroes grant helped her create a new art piece entitled "The Burn of Acid is No One’s Honor.”
Over the course of many years, there have been a great number of acid attacks in India against Indian women. Sadly, these acids are very easily purchased, with sulfuric acid being one of the most common acids used in these acts of suffering. The attacks are done both in a private or a public place (very often for the intention of humiliation). These women are either permanently disfigured, permanently disabled, and/or killed as a result of these attacks by the oppressors. The attackers see this as a type of honor violence in which they believe they are carrying out an act that upholds the honor of a family or a community. They believe these women have brought permanent dishonor to their family or community, and they believe that a permanent physical punishment should be carried out as a consequence. Very often, these attackers are members of the victim’s close or extended family. To more intensely reflect on these acid attacks of immeasurable suffering, I created an artwork for my service project.
Two aspects that stood out the most while creating my artwork was my purchase of the acid and the fabric. When I went to pick out and purchase the acid, I could not believe the ease with which I was able to purchase it in the form of a drain cleaner at a grocery store. The bottle has very bold colors used on the label, and it says “SULFURIC ACID” on it in bright capitalized letters. It also has very grave warnings on it with regards to the acid coming into contact with flesh. It was heart-wrenching to see how easy and cheap it was to purchase something that could cause so much harm to another being. In addition to incorporating this bottle of acid into my art piece, I used these overwhelming noticeable and bold colors on the bottle to inform the colors of my fabric.
In choosing the fabric pattern, I wanted to find a fabric that embodied the intensity of the attack of acid mixed with immeasurable pain, loss, shock, and ostracization. I found this pattern within one of the layers of an older garment from India that I found in the very back of my drawer. I happen to have less than a handful of Indian garments that came as kind gifts throughout the years, so cutting up this rare Indian fabric was something that I carefully considered in finding the right fabric textile for my art piece. However, once I set my eyes on this fabric, my mind could not stop conjuring up these brave acid attack victims and survivors, and no other fabric that I came across in stores or at home came close to capturing the intention of my art piece as the one that I gratefully found in this drawer. One challenge that I had in working with this fabric throughout the construction of my art piece was the fact that the fabric was remarkably thin. It was the thinnest fabric I have worked with thus far in my art-making practice. I had to find laminating sheets to adhere to the back of the fabric so that the fabric could hold my stitching. Even with my lamination, I had to be cautiously mindful of the very fragile nature of this fabric throughout the entire making of the piece with each stitch that I sewed.
These two detailed elements were very instrumental and memorable throughout the making of my art piece. While needing to be very aware of exactly what I was doing at every moment during the making of my artwork because of how thin the fabric was and the possibility of missteps causing a rip that could destruct the entire art piece, I was also very aware of the subject matter because the fragility of the fabric reminded me of the fragility of these women’s lives and the destructive atmosphere that they live in. My service project culminated in my creation of an art piece called “The Burn of Acid is No One’s Honor.”
The incredibly kind and generous Harvardwood Heroes grant provided me the means to create a visual art piece called "The Burn of Acid is No One's Honor." While making my artwork, I would tenderly find myself in the midst of tears in between stitching the very delicate fabric pieces that shaped the body of the figure—the representation of the Indian women who have suffered these acid attacks. The power of this meaningful connection continues to move through me today, and I greatly hope that this artwork connects to the hearts of many in the same way.
Farah is a visual artist who graduated with a master's degree in Arts in Education from Harvard University. Her work can best be described as stick figure art created by hand-sewing techniques and textile application. Her art-making practice centers on oppression, and she creates all of her artwork for the sole purpose of donation to nonprofit spaces so that her art pieces may exist as a tool to educate and serve the community. Farah's heart is filled with so much gratitude for the Harvardwood Heroes grant, as she will be using it to purchase sewing materials and art supplies to create a visual art piece that reflects on the pain and suffering of women in India who are the victims of acid attacks.
In Spring 2018, we awarded four $500 grants through the annual Harvardwood Heroes program in recognition of Harvard alumni performing outstanding work at the intersection of the arts and service. This Thanksgiving weekend, we're catching up with the 2018 Heroes to share their program updates with the Harvardwood community and to express our gratitude for their inspiring impact on their communities.