A conversation with Artist/Activist Dr. Nichelle Rivers
The awareness and freedom Nichelle has discovered seem to reflect the time, especially on Long Island where circumstances around COVID-19 and the current BLM outcry against police brutality have forced all Americans out of our comfort zone. Wherever we stand, we are all forced to look at the truth about our home. Nichelle is cautiously hopeful about the growing support for BLM after George Floyd’s murder. And she does see some voices raised around transgender inclusion and acceptance, but not nearly enough:
She concedes that perhaps there is an opportunity in the crisis created by COVID-19. This pandemic has pulled back the curtains on all the hidden realities around health inequities that impact members of the black community, many of whom disproportionately make up the essential workforce whose jobs put them at high risk for the virus. Similar to the unavoidable realities related to COVID-19, The Stolen Lives Project allows her to pull back the layers of truth that can no longer be obscured or covered: “When you’re messing with wallpaper…you’re like, “I want to try to get this wallpaper off the wall.” Sometimes you pull back wallpaper and you find more wallpaper, and when you pull back the other wallpaper, you find a crack. Then you keep going, and there are huge cracks. In terms of their lives, in terms of those layers, you find other variables that continue to oppress and marginalize them.” In a sense, then, the story about the Stolen Lives Project is actually her own. As she peels away the layers of misconception and exposes the underlying fear and hate around transgender women and men of color, she liberates her own voice. And those who explore the Stolen Lives Project can bear witness to her growth as an artist and as a person. In a sense, then, we are all liberated by the experience of this courageous artist who made a choice to use her art to stand up for those who were unable to stand up for themselves. Such a naked and bold decision she made to move outside the limiting confinement of boxes can teach us all how to look for home within and beyond Long Island.
Please see Nichelle’s website for all information around the Stolen Lives Project as well as her many other artistic works and projects. Additionally, this site provides links to all of her art work for purchase. Prior to COVID-19, Nichelle routinely displayed a wide range of her work throughout Long Island, notably through Huntington Arts Gallery and the Greater Westbury Arts Council. She has accepted many speaking engagements around her Stolen Lives Project where she is able to educate the public about the realities of transgender lives, offering thought-provoking commentary to contextualize her paintings. Unfortunately, social distance restrictions due to COVID-19 have limited her ability to share her work beyond her website. She does, however, offer outside viewings on choice Long Island residential sites. Check her website for dates and locations.