“Under the Gun,” a contemporary art show held at Work Release that pushed the Norfolk community to seek new avenues for saving lives and reducing the violence in our neighborhoods, officially closed this past Saturday, on February 4th.
Sponsored through the Norfolk Faith community with specific efforts led by St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Grace Episcopal Church, and Christ and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the exhibit featured a mix of national and local artists with work designed to create new conversations centered around the people who have directly suffered from violence in our communities.
Workshops and forums were prominently attended, resulting in a robust discussion about the victims of gun violence as well as suicide prevention and advocacy for increasing public mental health resources.
Now, as the exhibited artwork is dismantled and returned to their artists, the remaining piece by photographer Jeff Hewitt will be left on the wall over the next few days for potential bidders to view and to await the result of a silent auction — intended to benefit a rising Virginia Beach organization dedicated towards raising awareness, working with surviving spouses of suicide victims, and increasing efforts centered around school bullying and harassment that has led to an increase in suicide statistics among our youth.
Yaitza Canterbury, who lost her husband and the father of her now five-year-old son to suicide three years ago, is undergoing the process of establishing her organization — “From the Ashes,” as a 501 c3 nonprofit.
“As a suicide bereaved widow, I have personally noticed a desperate lack of resources for younger widows and for those who have lost a loved one to suicide, above and beyond support groups. While I cannot speak for every suicide loss survivor, I have found that the programs and resources I was looking for (which went beyond just talk therapy) just weren’t accessible to me in the area.”
“I have also, in the course of my journey, been made aware of a dire need to address the rise in suicides among our youth — especially when it comes to bullying. It’s clear that the bullying programs in place today are not working and that school systems are overwhelmed. There can be no doubt that bullying and suicides are correlated with the rise of terms such as bullycide and cyberbullycide.”
“My personal experience with suicide loss has pushed me to do more not just in his honor, but so that our son always knows that his mother did everything she could to prevent another family — another child — from suffering the same pain.”
The piece, entitled “The Consequence of Sisyphus,” is a series of black and white portraits depicting surviving family members of suicide victims who now struggle to find answers in the aftermath of their loss. Jeff Hewitt is a rising Norfolk Photographer who was featured as part of the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in its 2016 New Waves show. This is his second series intended for gallery display and he is currently developing a major exhibition of street photography taken in Norfolk, Philadelphia, and New York — to culminate in a published collection with a gallery show to be announced later this year.
“Each of these portraits were the result of intense interviews with the subjects, where these survivors were able to talk about the people they’ve lost and how it has affected the course of their lives. It was designed as unified series, even though none of the subjects know each other personally, to in part present the notion that these losses affect all of us.. That we are all connected through these cycles that desperately need breaking. It’s my intention that a benefactor might purchase it with the intention of displaying it some place where it might further reach people who are experiencing a similar struggle, or maybe by a larger organization that works towards improving the outcomes of those who struggle with suicidal ideation.”
“I met Yaitza through a friend as I was seeking out potential subjects for the portraits. I was inspired by how she was turning the tragedy of her personal story into a positive force, and decided early on that I wanted to use this piece to help her get started.”
The piece will remain on exhibit through the end of this week at Work Release on Granby St. in the NEON District of Norfolk. The silent auction is to begin with bidding at $500.00 for the complete series, comprised of five giclee 20×30 prints on archival paper.