Lately, Doniece Sandoval has been been in the spotlight for bringing showers to the homeless by truck, a program known as Lava Mae. Now, she’s exploring the possibilities of changing perceptions about the homeless through art.
On January 13, Sandoval and the Market Street gallery Fouladi Projects will open an exhibition of artwork reflecting on the experience of homelessness. Though the artists themselves haven’t experienced homelessness, the idea is to move viewers to empathize by employing sculpture, photography, sound, and other media.
Sandoval’s latest project takes her back to the world she started in – art, as Chief External Relations Officer for ZER01: The Art & Technology Network and Director of Marketing for the San Jose Museum of Art. She set aside her work in the art world to create Lava Mae in 2014 after encountering a homeless woman on the street crying out that she would never be clean.
“Our goal with Coming Clean: SF is to experiment with and understand how artistic insight could be a useful tool in shifting the broader community’s relationship with people moving through homelessness,” Sandoval wrote in a statement.
Amy Wilson Faville, whose work will be exhibited in the show, began photographing and later creating collages depicting homeless people’s carts of belongings. She had started to notice them outside her Mission District art studio, seeing them as a kind of mobile sculpture.
Faville said she hopes her work attracts attention initially because it is beautiful, and then provokes thought with its content.
“I think that beauty can be a way into considering a subject that is difficult or ugly, or something that maybe you would maybe rather not normally think about,” she said. “I hope that after seeing my work that maybe when somebody sees [a cart] on the street, that they will kind of look at it that way…rather than just seeing it as blight.”
While the shower program has enjoyed community support, said Deborah Schneider, a spokesperson for Lava Mae, the art element is intended to reach people who aren’t yet involved.
“Our goal is to engage new audiences. We have a wonderfully supportive community and we’re also hoping in addition to engage new people who are not familiar with our work,” Schneider said.
During the exhibition’s run, through February 23, Fouladi Projects will also host six live art events including a participatory art installation, a listening party, and a crochet jam.