Art Therapy for Women and The Skinned Knee

Texas Tribune & National Geographic - all at once.

When I was about 5 years old, I remember being struck by how impossibly cool it is to be alive in this body that can feel sunshine and feel rain and the absence of both and that it unequivocally belonged to me; these experiences in my world were completely my own, that I often had to close my eyes and reach out to touch the closest object to make sure this was all real. I find myself in that state once again with the discovery that one of my photographs has been published in National Geographic's Your Shot, specifically with the assignment titled "Home".

But first, I feel like I should address my most recent assignment with the Texas Tribune.

The story was over "Illuminating Spirits," an art and poetry exhibition by about 50 incarcerated women in the Texas prison system, that are displayed at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, presented by The Texas Criminal Justice Coalition and the City of Austin. The purpose of the exhibit is to address that "in addition to past sexual abuse and mental illness, data collected by the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition showed that 82.1 percent [of the 421 women surveyed] had experienced some type of domestic violence before their incarceration. More than half said their household income was less than $10,000 a year, and 73.3 percent reported that family members had also been incarcerated."

Art therapy is not only inexpensive, it's an effective coping method that offers a safe form of expression for individuals suffering from previous trauma, low self-esteem, and other emotional needs.

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It was awesome to experience the exhibit, as well a performance by Conspire Theater, a group of previously incarcerated women speaking on womanhood, love and loss, the Texas prison system, and life after being a number. Providing a voice and outlet to those who have likely never been heard before is direly important. Most of the crimes these women committed stem from past abuses in their lives. "Someone failed these women."

Read about the event and the organizations here:

and then....

I went to my National Geographic Your Shot account (Your Shot is a way to submit photographs for "assignments" that editors and NatGeo photographers curate, directly to the editors. It is open to the public and is a fantastic photo-sharing community.) to check my notifications, as usual. I scroll down and see a comment that goes something like..."congrats on the selection for the story!".....scroll down some more, and I see a notification from the editor congratulating me on my being published for the story. It hasn't set in yet and I don't know that it will. It's an honor and I'm a little overwhelmed.

The photograph is of my friend's younger brother, Orion, on a custom-made, pink-lighted, dinosaur bike with velociraptor claws and a detachable tail, outside of their house in Austin, Texas. The image has a relatable feeling of childhood; riding your bike until after dark with banged up shin bones in the cooler summer nights, plus the fun of pink lights and dinosaurs.

My photo, among 19 other selections, was chosen to represent the word "home." At the front of each issue, there is designated "Your Shot" page or two, usually at the front. However, I'm not sure which selected photos will be actually printed in next month's issue, since there were so many selected for this assignment, but here's hoping that by this time next month, I'll be able to hold one of realized life's dreams in my own hands, and make sure it really is real.

Thank you for not only taking time to read, but for the support.