Rachel Elizabeth Brainerd
My work provides the opportunity for viewers to consider their relationship with the ‘others’ of society. I create wearable, metal forms that discuss the psychological effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) found among refugees. I translate the inequalities of our society into tactile jewelry that offers insight into the harsh realities of physical and psychological survival in exile. I recognize my position of privilege, and utilize the materials I have to highlight the lack of resources and validate the experiences of oppression these individuals face. My work challenges those with economic comfort to recognize the pain of others, rousing them to accept responsibility for their role in social transformation.
I delight in constructing intricate works of metal with various hinged and swiveling mechanisms that offer a doorway into my conceptualization of refugee trauma. I exploit the natural curiosity of viewers to wear and touch these moving elements, and thus briefly step into another’s experience. While my audience and I have the luxury of removing these external forms, refugees have not chosen to carry the burdens forced upon them. I cast blue tarpaulin in resin with embedded photographs from newsreels of refugees in flight to visually reference the temporary building materials and living conditions found in refugee camps. The burned resin images evoke a sense of loss and longing: the memories of countless lives threatened by the disintegration of their homes, and the fragility of human life. The metal forms, tarnished by patina and age, become a witness to this passage of time, and reside in a worn, familiar context that invites intimate connection and understanding instead of reverent distance.
The secondary titles of these works reference the cognitive, physical, and emotional symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.