Beautiful Women

Popart and Streetart Art project on the topic of displaced Women

The concept for Daniel Eisenhut’s “Beautiful Women” project first took root in his mind, while he was still working on “Lipstick Leaders”. While portraying one female leader, he was referred to another and thus met many strong women. When he met Rachel Herzog, the founder of SAO Association he discovered a whole new network of brave women. The SAO Association is an organization focused on supporting refugee women and mothers with their children, in Greece. Women and children are especially vulnerable when displaced, and the work the SAO does is essential. They provide women and children with emergency shelter and resources. They also run workshops and training programs and help refugees get back on their feet and find new places to settle.

The SAO Association has two centres in Greece where women and children can go to get the support asylum seekers so often need. The Bashira Centre in Lesbos, and the Amina Centre in Athens. It was to the former that Daniel Eisenhut travelled to begin his project “Beautiful Women”. Having met the founder and learned of the good work the SAO did for refugees, Daniel Eisenhut was so touched and inspired to use his art to bring draw attention to their cause.

He wanted to raise awareness, not just for the organisation, but for female refugees in general. As with many of his other projects, Eisenhut wanted to use his art to bring people together. Often overlooked, or worse looked-away-from, refugees are so often seen as separate or undesirable. Travelling to Lesbos, Daniel Eisenhut met with the women that had fled their homes, and he saw beauty in their strength and humanity.

Getting to know his subjects on an individual level is important to Eisenhut’s process. It is what makes his piece breathe, how he brings raw materials to life and imbues his work with authentic human emotions. The goal of “Beautiful Women” was to create portraits that would help to humanize the way we look at refugees, and for that he needed to get to know them. He spoke with each woman while portraying them. He led workshops on self-awareness and self-recognition for the refugees. He was so impressed by the fortitude of these women, that he strove to create art that would be as undeniable as their presence.

I was asked by a Journalist about naming my Art Project Refugee Women – Beautiful Women. here are some answers.

In style and concept, “Beautiful Women” would differ greatly from any other project of Eisenhut’s. The original idea was to hang large banners of pop art portraits from prominent buildings around Zurich. In their day to day lives, those who weren’t usually faced with the struggles of refugees on a daily basis, would encounter the faces of women who had been displaced. The faces of the women Daniel Eisenhut met at the Bashira shelter, would look out over the city. They would be beautiful, inviting people to look, as well as colourful, not allowing them to look away. Pop art was not Eisenhut’s usual style. It is however eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing, “popular”, all the things he wanted to bring to a subject that often gets met with distaste. The perfect way to subvert the narrative of the drab asylum seeker, society tells us to ignore.

In this Project, I changed the original portraits to POP-ART Like Portraits. In the video, I explain why

During Eisenhut’s stay in Lesbos the island became a scene to civil unrests concerning the Moria Refugee camp. Large-scale and in part violent demonstrations that were described by locals as a “civil war” erupted overnight and general strikes brought all commercial life to a halt. For the first time, Daniel Eisenhut felt afraid and powerless. He had money, but that didn’t change his ability to move freely. All the things he could usually do to feel free were gone, and he had no other choice than to wait. He worried about being away from his family, and the unquiet around him made him worry about ever getting back to them. It was hard, and yet it was what made him truly empathize with the women and children around him. When one woman told him, “Now you know what it feels like to be a refugee,” he understood. They no longer had homes to go back to. He was unsure if he could get back to his. Feeling stuck forced Daniel Eisenhut to work harder on and move forward with “Beautiful Women.”

The portrait sessions themselves took place at a makeshift studio in Lesbos. It was important for everyone that this took place outside of the shelter. When one has nowhere else to go and is in a vulnerable state, shelter means so much more. It is important that it remains closed to intrusions. The goal of the project would be to make the struggles and faces of these women seen, without intruding into the safe haven of the SAO shelters. The art would be public, while the shelters would remain theirs.

Back in Zurich the Covid19 Pandemic and the omnipresent restrictions that came with it forced museums and galleries to close, it seemed that the “Beautiful Women” project was deemed to come to an early end. Daniel Eisenhut redirected the project and made it public in a different way than he originally intended. In lieu of large banners seen from coffee shops that would no more be open than the offices in the buildings from which they hung; the portraits were plastered on a wall on the streets of Zurich. The pop-art met street art, and anyone out for a walk in the area, living nearby, or shopping for essentials would pass it by. The faces of refugees from the Bashira Centre in Lesbos looked out onto Zurich Street. The colors popped and the faces told their own stories, while a QR code on the side referred passers-by to the website of the SAO Association. Daniel Eisenhut shared his art with the city and gained awareness for displaced women and children that seek refuge every day in various parts of the world.