Five years ago on June 12th, 2016, tragedy struck when a local 29 year old man opened gunfire in Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida in the United States where Latin Night was being hosted. 49 unsuspecting people lost their precious lives and 53 were wounded in this deadly incident, making this the biggest act of violence against the LGBT community in the US, and the biggest one-man mass shootout until the Las Vegas shooting which occurred ed in 2017. The shooter, identified as Omar Mateen was shot down and killed by the Orlando Police officers 3 hours later.
Many questions still linger in the minds of many despite the reasons cited that led to this outcome. Was it worth taking away so many lives, or losing his own? Did he randomly choose a gay bar, was it pre-meditated and a direct act of hate or was he just a lost man conflicted about his own identity and craved some attention? What happens to the survivors and will the hearts of those left behind ever heal?
What is a known fact is that all these people were someone’s daughter, son, uncle, niece, nephew and friend. Their lives mattered and they deserved to live out their lives and not have them cut short at the hand of another. It is the kind of horror movie no-one wants to watch a second time. Their lives are remembered with love and a light that will keep shining in the hearts of those who knew and loved them.
As part of the journey towards healing, an exhibition will be held in memory of all lives lost in Austin Texas. Please join Renee Rodriguez & invited contributing artists (Shawna Billet, Lorena Fernandez, PhD, Mitch Darte & Nanette Sandoval) as they share with the United States of America their genuinely heartfelt and dedicated creative perspectives of how to remember, reflect and restore healing from the 2016 Orlando PULSE Nightclub tragedy that tragically took the lives of 49 blessed souls while injuring 53 survivors.
Location: Texas State Capitol Building, 2nd Lower-Level Rotunda, Austin, Texas
Date: June 11-17, 2021
MEET THE ARTISTS
As a fine art photographer, I am visually absorbed and inherently inspired by heritage, spirituality and culture.
My photography is continually evolving and reflective of my journey as a woman who has survived trauma, including terminal cancer and now Covid-19 with double lung pneumonia. Perhaps two elements that are most evident in my photographs involve texture and linear angles. My style is calm and often involves solitary object placement which internally defines my inner self as I walk the world. I’m attracted to capturing some sense of organization in objects or subjects within a world of constant change.
I photograph instinctively with my heart. I’m motivated to capture the stillness of sacred spaces, textures within architecture and peace within chaos of human events. I discovered after Hurricane Harvey, I wanted to help enlighten the world as a Social Awareness Photographer.
Most notably, I created a one-of-a-kind photography tribute trilogy celebrating the lives of the 49 souls of the 2016 Orlando PULSE Nightclub tragedy. Phase I’s original exhibit was titled, “VIVA PULSE”. The Associated Press shared virally an article created by The Galveston Daily Newspaper and Houston’s Out-Smart Magazine. Phase II’s “PULSATION” was a remembrance exhibit held on the tragedies 1st anniversary celebrating the lives of the victims. Phase III, I created a book tribute titled, “Redemptive LOVE” and presented at the 2018 Houston FotoFest Biennial Portfolio Review.
Additionally, by invitation, I was the 1st female at Washington, D.C.’s Museum of the America’s Book Fair premier. The Texans for the Arts organizer then referred my book to the art director at The State Capitol in Austin, Texas whom has agreed for me to have a solo exhibit that has transitioned into a beautiful collaborative 5th Anniversary Remembrance Tribute (opening June 12, 2021).
My mission is to reflect visual awareness of all things forgotten. ~
Shawna Stroup Billet
Shawna Stroup Billet was born and raised in North East, Ohio. Today she is a thriving contemporary mixed media artist who lives and works in Houston, Texas. Her work is reflection of her life experiences and travel. Her distinctive style demonstrates an energy through her use of line, color, organic form and movement.
Stroup Billet’s work often depicts nature in its most energetic state. She has a love for all the elements in nature’s landscape. Her personal work is explored with mixed media as she is constantly learning and experimenting with new techniques.
Shawna graduated with honors from Cleveland State University in Ohio and earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree with a minor in Art Education. She has obtained a teaching career in the high school setting, teaching advanced drawing and painting for over 14 years. Through her teaching experience she has spent her time fostering student growth and achievement in the arts. Along with working with her students, she continues to develop and show her own work.
Some recent achievements include exhibitions at the Tremont Gallery, Galveston, TX (2015-2016) , Bosque Gallery, Houston, TX (2016) , Conception Art Show, Houston (2016, Winner of the Award for Excellence), Conception Art Show, Dallas (2017), Spring Street Studios Gallery, Houston, TX (2017), Art For the People Gallery, Austin, TX (2018) Currently her work is being shown at Impulse Art Gallery, Houston, TX and Affaire d’Art Fine Art Gallery in Galveston, TX (2019-2021).
Lorena Fernandez is a Houston based Latina artist temporarily based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Her artworks are exhibited and collected internationally. She is a trained Person Centered Expressive Arts Facilitator and holds a PhD in Expressive Arts Therapy and Coaching. She serves as Board member of IEATA, the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association. For more information please visit her website: https://lfcreative.org
Nanette Sandoval is a proud Mama of a 16-year-old young man. She’s a Mexican American Houstonian and self-taught artist with a passion in illustration. Her Lola Loves doodle was created with hopes to inspire and bring smiles to all who see her…one daily drawing at a time.
Mitch is a nationally recognized and award winning artist that has been featured in Mexican publications in San Luis Potosi and in Social Life, Tierra Firme, Beyond Arts Gallery magazine and other digital magazines. She has taught art for Hildago ISD for the past 27 years. Growing up in Hildago, Texas she developed a fondness and connection to all things humble that provoke emotion. “Anything rich in history and culture… things that show evidence of the past and traces of the human spirit…they greatly deepen my connection to the people of past generations and strengthen my belief in meaningful human connections.” She is currently working out of three studios, McAllen, Houston and Hildago. “I am inspired by the woman who follow after me… I hope to change the landscape of the valley by embracing our culture and finding our faith again.”
Co – Author & Editor: Mildred Mugauri