I’ve been working on the topic of trauma for a few years now. My visual work is all about it, I wrote my master’s thesis exploring how trauma is represented, I’ve read thousands upon thousands of words discussing the topic, and I’ve been through my own trauma and healing. I’ve become a sort-of-pro on the topic of trauma and expression.
I have a fine art practice, which is heavily based on my own experiences as a survivor of trauma. It works, it gets seen, but I wanted to do more. It’s one thing if I used my skills as an artist to broadcast my own story to the masses, and that was fine for a while, but I have this thing inside of me, that has always been there, that wants to do more. Not just for myself, but for others as well.
Back when I was working my agency job, retouching potato chips and Tupperware all day every day, I would frequently come home crying because I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. It’s a vague thing to cry about, because I was, in all actuality, doing plenty: I was working 40+ hours a week at the agency, tutoring weeknights, and teaching photography on the weekends. Still, I was unhappy, all because I wasn’t out in the world moving mountains or some shit like that.
My work, at it’s core, is to get people to understand that trauma is a complex thing that requires attention instead of silence. That is it, that is what it boils down to. So, instead of just having my fine art practice that centered around my own experiences, I’ve been slowly branching out and becoming a more socially engaged artist and activist.
This is why The Jade Plant Project was born. A few months ago, I was denied a grant that would allow me to work with survivors of sexual trauma, to create a book together about whatever it was the survivors wanted. It could have been anything, as the purpose was to lend my skill set to the group, not to control what it was they wanted to make. I didn’t get the grant though, which is never a good time, but I just shrugged it off and went to have lunch with my friend.
Okay, I really didn’t shrug it off– I vented a lot, and I was upset, but my friend was patient and talked me through a lot of my grief. Before I went home, she gave me a jade plant, even though I was hesitant to accept it. I’m great at accidentally killing plants, but my friend just said “Jade plants are extremely difficult to kill. You’ll be fine.”
It’s probably super cheesy that it was her words and her gift that inspired me to create this project, but there it is. The Jade Plant Project became the name of my new project: creating a publication for survivors to submit whatever they wanted, and it would be published. I envisioned photography, writing, doodles, prose, notes, napkin sketches, pet pictures– legitimately anything. And it didn’t have to be about their trauma, but it could be if they wanted it to be. The submitter could also choose to remain anonymous; that way, anyone, regardless of who they were and where they were on their healing journey, could submit to the publication.
I had a call for entry on a couple of different platforms, like facebook and tumblr, and I had a couple responses via email as well. After months of hard work, we finally have The Jade Plant Project Volume One– a collaborative effort on the behalf of 23 survivors of sexual violence. Additionally, the zine is FREE. I read once that if it wasn’t accessible, it wasn’t revolutionary, so here’s to hoping we can make a difference.
A special thanks to Kaiden Dunn, for the gorgeous cover art, Meg Hughey for being my go-to for all trauma resources, and the Agitator Gallery, for letting me launch my zine in their space! Shout-out to the tumblr community for helping me spread the news about the publication (and if you have a tumblr, feel free to follow us here!)
If you are going to be in Grand Rapids on August 25th, be sure to check us out at the Grand Rapids Zine Fest, where you can pick up a hard copy for FREE!
It’s a beautiful zine, small but powerful, and I am so excited to share it with you all.
To access the PDF of Volume One, click here.
P.S.– we’re already working on Volume Two, which is launching in October– only a couple months away! Since the zine is free, we are looking for donations to offset the cost of printing (each zine costs about $2.83 to create.) If you can spare some change, please donate to our Ko-Fi, which you can find here.