Family Trees showcases art by survivors of domestic abuse

Family Trees showcases art by survivors of domestic abuse

Navid Nicole Nonahal

Family Trees art exhibit showcased more than 75 pieces created by survivors of domestic violence at California State University, Northridge’s West Gallery.

Public exhibitions held by A Window Between Worlds, such as Family Trees, raise awareness about domestic violence implied by unveiling the strength, hope and pride of the survivors.

“Through art, women and children in our programs have a safe place to learn a lot about themselves and what they want for their future,” said Olivia Piacenza, program director.

A Window Between Worlds (AWBW) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing art as a healing tool for domestic violence survivors. AWBW has been providing this method of healing for battered women and children in crises shelters, transitional homes and outreach centers throughout the United States since 1991.

The entrance to the West Gallery displayed a Community Story Tree created by 72 individuals from across the United States.  The tree embodied community commitment against domestic violence through images of roots, bark, branches, leaves, fruits and sky.

“Telling the story of the abuse is a critical step in healing from domestic violence,” Piacenza said.  “Art provides a gentle and effective way for women to express themselves and release painful feelings.”

Across the gallery hung a large cross, made up of seven different canvases created by a mother and her five children.  The piece, titled “Finally Freedom,” demonstrates three stages of the Roque family life.  A dark past is shown at the bottom, a hopeful present toward the center and a promising future is revealed at the top.

“This workshop was a great opportunity for me to bond with my children, and to see how they view us as a family,” Concepcion Roque told AWBW.  “I never realized how much of the abuse my children were aware of.”

Among the pieces was a drawing composed of a dead tree sitting inside a closed fence with one green leaf on its top branch representing hope.  The two young trees standing on its side represent the artist’s children.

“The leaf on the almost dead tree represents the hope that kept me going,” said Veronica Mendez, creator of “My Leaf of Hope,” noted AWBW.   “I had two children with me that needed me.”

Outside the fence, in a distance, a strong and fruitful tree is observed reaching into a blue sky, symbolizing a brighter future.  “My picture represents the freedom I’ve longed for,” continued Mendez.

On the opposite side of the room, hung a canvas painting named “Tree of My Transformation”,   created by an anonymous artist.  This tree is strong, green and fruitful, yet has a dead branch hanging off its side.

“If my tree could talk, it would say so many things, the first thing would be wow, all the things I have seen, suffered and went through and yet I am still alive, Thank you God,” the artist told AWBW.

“Art is a way to speak without opening your mouth,” said Cathy Salser, AWBW executive director.

Several art pieces will be available for purchase at the Music and Art Festival, July 11, 2009.  All proceeds will benefit children and women survivors of domestic abuse.  For further information or to purchase tickets, please visit or call 310-396-0317.