“The Silence Is Over” Is A Unique Exhibition About Empowerment from Survivors of Sexual Assault and Abuse
“Sexy”, “Sensual”, and “Erotic” are some words that could be used to describe Kyra Coates’ art, the owner of Infuse Gallery in Denver, Colorado. Her large vibrantly colored canvases typically depict scenes of couples in ecstatic sensual poses, or single nudes in striking expressions of passion with splashes of color akin to flames or vibrating energy from hair or body connections. They evoke sexual passion or personal inspiration, like her piece titled “Breakthrough” which shows a figure cracking and bursting into flame. With such sensual passion evoked in her imagery many are surprised when they read her story, how she is a mother of two, a former Hindu nun, and a survivor of sexual abuse and rape.
“I have lived such a broad spectrum of experience around sexuality, from abuse and rape as a child, to years of celibacy as a nun, and then overcoming trauma to experience sexuality and femininity as an ecstatic celebration in both spiritual and personal empowerment,” said Coates. “I feel I’m an ambassador of sorts about overcoming trauma to grow into power and ecstasy. My art is a message that it is possible to live the full spectrum, that in fact these traumatic experiences offer us a greater experience of joy as we have felt pain so deeply. It’s a momentum we all can experience in our lives as we all suffer one way or another. Pushing through that suffering into joy and empowerment is why I believe these things happen to us in the first place. Its our call to purpose and power.”
And that philosophy is what she has created her current exhibition on. “The Silence Is Over” is a group show from the survivors of sexual assault and abuse. She created this in partnership with two nonprofit organizations; Blossomy, who offer creative therapy and photography vocational training programs in India and Thailand to survivors of human trafficking, and also PAVE (Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment) that offer awareness campaigns and therapy programs for survivors of sexual assault in the United States. All artists in the exhibition donate a percentage of their sales to one of the organizations, and Infuse Gallery matches the donation.
Several of the artists in the show came to Infuse Gallery from these organizations themselves. Asha and Nisha are two photographers from India, both who were trained through The Light Space photography program from Blossomy. Both women were rescued from brothels as young girls and now use photography as a means of self-expression, really the first time in their lives they’ve ever had any.
Sumrien Ali, a designer out of Washington DC has been involved with many of PAVE’s programs, and has her abstract piece titled “Blissful Breakthrough” in the exhibition, which symbolizes breaking free from her abusive marriage into a healthier life.
There is also Trish Smith from British Columbia, Mernie Baker from NY, and Leslie Bender from NY, all well established artists who have shown their work in multiple galleries, all sharing their own personal stories of trauma survival to empowerment. And Alexia Stack from British Columbia, a new artist who shows her art for the first time in a gallery in this exhibition, and is revealing her own story of abuse for the first time to many.
“Very few talk openly of this issue in society, and it is one laden with shame. Those who bear the shame are the vulnerable children, often now adults, who have been abused by people in positions of power- most often family members or very close friends. I have decided after a long struggle to share this, to help shed the shame that's not mine to own,” said Stack in her post about the exhibit on social media.
This exhibition is one of many for Infuse Gallery that link a cause with a show. Founded on the mission of using art as a tool of social change, Coates has partnered with 5 different nonprofit organizations. All artists represented in the galleries, whether long-term career artists or new artists that came to her through these organizations’ programs select a nonprofit they wish to donate to through sales, and Infuse matches all donations. Along with PAVE and Blossomy, Infuse Gallery has also partnered with Creativity Explored, an organization that offers art training and studio space to adults with developmental disabilities in the Bay area; Redline’s Reach Studio, which is a program that creates art programs for the homeless or not-so-homeless community in Denver, and Central Asia Institute, who builds schools and programs for girls in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. Currently Coates is in the process of launching an art education program for girls in Afghanistan in partnership with Central Asia Institute with the goal of having an exhibition early summer 2018 of the girls’ art.
“Art is a powerful. Its an expression that comes straight from the heart and can connect people across cultural, philosophical, and language barriers,” said Coates. “Our goal at Infuse Gallery is to use that power to make real tangible social change in the world.”
Infuse Gallery’s exhibition “The Silence Is Over” is up from September 1st – October 27th at 853 Santa Fe Dr., Denver, CO, and can be found on Artsy at https://www.artsy.net/show/infuse-gallery-the-silence-is-over-a-journey-of-empowerment-from-survivors-of-sexual-abuses