In the middle of 2019, in order to bolster my spirits and my faith in humanity, I was reading about effective, proactive women when I came across a quote by Pia Klemp that prompted this portrait series.
Pia Klemp rescued hundreds of stranded migrants in the Mediterranean with her ship the Luventa, and was subsequently charged by Italian authorities with assisting illegal immigration. The mayor of Paris wanted to give Klemp the highest award of the city for her humanitarian work. Instead, she declined the medal and made a statement that included the following:
…We do not need medals. We do not need who is a ‘hero’ and who is ‘illegal’… What we need is freedom and rights. It is time we call hypocrite honoring and fill the void with social justice. It is time we cast all medals into spearheads of revolution!”
That did it for me. I was compelled to start this series with Pia Klemp and I immediately had two other women in mind: Jacinda Ardern and Theresa Kachindamoto. The collection now includes nine paintings but is an ongoing project given that there are many more global subjects to explore.
The Compass Collection expresses my admiration for women who take action to change the world. I feel these women all act from a deep well of compassion, enabling their determination, drive, and focus. Their compassion is for all living things—children, animals, families, the Earth, and all marginalized people.
Their Compass is rooted in compassion and empathy. Their Passion is fueled by strong emotion, which prompts them to take action no matter the inconvenience or discomfort. Notice that both “Compass” and “Passion” create the word “Compassion.”
The portraits are purposely large and looking directly at the viewer so that we cannot avoid their presence. We are forced to engage with them. They are painted in a realistic manner so as to accurately represent the subjects, yet I heightened the color to add an expressionistic level of emotion. I kept the backgrounds simple, and I feel the metallic adds an element of elegance or a feeling of elevated status as with a religious icon. The other quality of metallics is the shine, which changes quickly as we move. This gives the paintings a dynamic feeling. I painted these portraits to be attractive and compelling, hoping that viewers would be interested in finding out more about the individual subjects, even prompting and inspiring action. We all have better versions of ourselves available to us.
Lucretia Torva is an artistic contributor to TRR.