I was born and raised in Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My career in visual arts began at the young age of seven when I started working with ceramics. I later expanded my interests to include glass and photography and have spent most of my life improving my art. In 1986, I obtained a B.A. in Economics from the University of Gama Filho in Rio de Janeiro.
Growing up in a large city in one of the largest developing nations, I became acutely aware of Brazil’s social issues from a young age. My observations allowed me to reflect on Brazil’s beauty as well as its dark side where marvelous landscapes and architecture, soulful music, and heart-warming food stood in stark contrast to a culture of violence and extreme socio-economic inequality which plague the country to this today.
I felt that pursuing a degree in economics was a practical and relevant corollary to my art so that I could understand not only the business component of working as an artist but also the socio-economic dimensions that lie at the heart of the problems in Brazil. Reflecting upon my education and experiences, I have developed a keen lens through which I am able to reflect on important social issues and comment on them through my work.
In 1993 I moved to São Paulo and in 1995, after my second child was born, I decided to dedicate my life exclusively to art. My first solo exhibition was in 1998 at the Sergio Caribe Gallery in São Paulo and in 1999 my work was exhibited at the Hebraica Gallery in São Paulo. After years of creating ceramic and glass sculptures and photography, in 2005 I began to focus my art to bring awareness to two issues that are of upmost importance to me: disabilities and violence against women and children. I wanted to create works of art that would be as beautiful as they would be profound in their reach.
With over 30 years of experience in ceramics, I use that knowledge to confront the challenges of working with glass to create collections using different techniques such as casting, fusing, kiln forming and cold working, and exercise great care at every phase of my projects.
In 2011 I produced an interactive exhibit of more than 10 pieces at Casa Cor in São Paulo, Brazil to give access to 190 deaf and blind adults and children through touch, audio, and sign language. This work, called “Maravilhas” (“Wonders”), was comprised of glass replications of Brazilian architectural and natural monuments.
Later in 2011, I created a series of glass sculptures for a project named “Caminhos” (“Paths”) which was a reflection of many emotions I experienced traveling on roads around the world. This project was on exhibit at the Hebraica Gallery in São Paulo in 2012.
I have attained national and international acclaim by using my art to spread awareness on issues of violence against women and children, and to express the vulnerability that women often feel from the time they are young girls.
In February 2013, my project called “Undesired” received the Gold Medal for best contemporary installation from ArtsLant. This work was a reflection and cultural commentary on the disposability of young girls in India and China.
My work aims to raise awareness of the pain inflicted by the commodification of women from a young age—something that is still happening globally in a variety of ways today.
My intention is to drive more people to think and act to promote the protection of women and children in vulnerable situations.
One of my latest projects involved photographs of children I had taken as part of my mission to raise awareness against the abuse of children.
My photographs were selected for publication by SEDES Sapienze -largest nonprofit organizations in Brazil that, for 35 years, has worked in the areas of mental health and education, to be displayed prominently on the front and back covers of their pamphlet entitled, “PIAR em ninho virtual” (“To chirp in a virtual nest”) which has been produced for distribution during this year’s World Cup during June 12- July 13, 2014.
The purpose of the PIAR pamphlet is to spread awareness of violence against children and serves as a measure to protect Brazilian children and families from the anticipated exploitation of children and women during a major sporting event like the World Cup during which an estimated 600,000 visitors are projected to visit Brazil. Because of the prevalence of child prostitution in Brazil and the issues the country will face in combatting both child prostitution and sex trafficking, the Brazilian government, along with many NGOs like SEDES, is working to combat these issues and maintain order and safety for both Brazil’s citizens and foreign visitors alike.
This year’s World Cup will be held in venues across 12 cities in Brazil for a total of 64 soccer matches. The average venue capacity seats 49,896 people. The target audience are children and adolescents in the city of São Paulo, however, in addition to being distributed to school events, lectures, and seminars on prevention and coping with violence against children and adolescents, the pamphlets will also be widely disseminated during the World Cup, in addition to the widespread dissemination of the pamphlets outside the stadiums, in schools, restaurants, bars, and hotels in the surrounding areas. A total of 40,000 copies have already been distributed.
Currently, I have a project in the works called “Children’s Voices” for which I have been traveling and researching for several years. For this project, I have been visiting children’s shelters, particularly those where girls have been victims of violence, in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Brazil. I spent tree days at the Pataxó reservation in Bahia, Brazil. The Pataxó are a native Brazilian tribe with a population of roughly 11,800. The reservation currently has a woman as its leader who is responsible for maintaining the culture and traditions in the reservation. With its limited resources, the reservation, under female leadership, has successfully managed to protect its young girls from assault and harassment by keeping them on the reservation.
In Cambodia, one of the shelters I visited was the shelter at the Somaly Mam Foundation. The Somaly Mam Foundation (SMF) is a nonprofit organization committed to ending modern day slavery and empowering its survivors as part of the solution. The organization works closely with partners in Southeast Asia, where trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and girls is widespread. SMF has supported thousands of women and girls on their journey to health, hope, and economic independence. At shelters like the one at SMF, I talked to groups of children and collected sentences or phrases from girls between the ages of 6 and 14, which the children wrote on paper cut-out dresses. The children are given the choice to write out answers to the following questions: What are your dreams?; What would you change in the world to make your future better?; and, in cases where children cannot easily understand the question, there will be a third option for them to express themselves which asks them to simply draw or write, if they are able, a sentence about something that comes from deep inside their heart. The project will comprise of 4,000 of these cut- outs that will hang on a chain-link fence.
My belief is that art enables children to deal positively with their emotions— a crucial step in healing and in helping to break the cycle of violence.
As part of a new project, “InVisible” I am creating glass pieces that replicate different children’s toys and incorporating them into my larger work as a commentary on the importance of childhood and the impact something as simple as toys have on the childhood experience— influencing a child’s personality and childhood development alike. The underlying theme will be children who are robbed of their youth because they were not able to play with toys either because they were victims of violence, forced into sex trafficking, forced into marriage, turned into child soldiers, or simply because they were born into poverty.
While not every one of these issues is necessarily a problem in the U.S., the majority of the issues I address are directly relevant to challenges the U.S. is currently facing. My hope is to spread awareness of these issues that are of immediate concern in the U.S. as well as to bring into focus issues that are prevalent outside the U.S.
My work is a reflection of my observations, research and findings from my travels around the world.
In addition to having a large following, my work is currently being used across institutions and communities to spread awareness of these issues. This is evidenced by the invitations I have received from museum curators from some of the most prominent museums in the U.S.
From my work with the WCA to my solo exhibition at MuBE and other exhibits around the world, to my most recent project published and disseminated at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, my work has moved people and helped bring awareness to issues that society can no longer afford to ignore.
My plans is continuing to produce work that challenges the world and addresses the plight of women and girls who are victims of violence, including sex trafficking, and the disabled.