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.

Fathers and Leaders 2017-19

Also known as “Crayon Leaders” – Art Proejcet about Fatherhood

During my work on my Project Lipstick Leaders, I was often asked if I’m working on a “Men-Project” mostly during the talk with different Leaders I portrayed for this Project.

It was very clear to me how I want such a project to look, the goal of Lipstick Leaders it’s to show Women Leaders in a never before manner, and I wanted to do the same with men leaders:

  • If I have portrayed the women in a very serious and deferential manner in a Cathedral like style. The men’s portraits will be presented in a very chaotic, reachable, and heartfelt manner.
  • If during the Lipstick Leaders, I talked to the leaders mainly about leadership and day-to-day business. I want to talk with the men about matters of the heart.
  • If I portrayed the women leaders, with charcoal and with only red lipstick I will draw the men leaders with Crayons that should be colorful and almost naĂŻve.

With that, I don’t want to show Men in a “softer light” or “belittle” them. I want to show Men as they “Also” really are, they are Leaders people who carry Social and Economical responsibility. And they are Fathers

The Covid19 stopped this project from flying, but I haven’t lost hope of its jet. For me, it is s very intimate and grounded Project that I would like to share. Personally, I find the portraits that I did very good and the stories collected are in my opinion a collection of intriguing insight into masculinity and the different facets of Fatherhood.


Crayon Leaders – Concept

Crayon Leaders – Konzept

Recently a Journalist friend interviewed me about the project:

What made you decide to start the father’s project?

While working on Lipstick Leaders, I was often asked if I would do a «men» portrait project. How often do I take such questions very personally and seriously, I didn’t have to think long about whether I would do it, but I was still missing a “story” or the perspectives from which I want to do the project. When I then portrayed Rebecca Guntern (Head of Sandoz Europe) for Lipstick Leaders and she asked me this very question, I was able to give her an answer straight away. «There will be a father’s project showing leading men from their family-paternal side».

In my work process, there is often a long period of time between the proclamation of a project and its realization – but this was not the case here. The idea was clear and easy to communicate. I wanted to portray men leaders in their professional lives and ask about their relationship with their own father, specifically a story about him.

Why did you ask them about their father, why not ask them about their children?

The “Father” question came out of two ulterior motives. For one thing, I didn’t want to get too close. Family can get very close very quickly and I thought that some kind of a deviating maneuver would be offered to talk about the “topic” but not directly address it. My projects are not about “discovering” things, but about showing them as they are. I can only do this if the models or participants feel safe.

What was the other ulterior motive?

A feeling I had then and that is very present in my mind now is that masculinity and fatherhood and their meaning have changed a lot in a very short time. Social demands have changed a lot and by asking adult men about their fathers, I was able to capture three generations at once (grandfathers, fathers and children). Focused on Switzerland, this has gained even more emphasis.

Why do you think that – what makes Switzerland special in this respect?

Switzerland is a very conservative society where certain social norms that were common in the rest of Europe have only changed in Switzerland in the last 30-20 years (women’s suffrage is just a small example). For many Swiss, it is still normal for children to stay at home during early education, which of course has a great impact on the traditional male/female roleplay. A situation has been created where the differences between the generations are very clear and often very visible. In terms of the project, I find it very exciting.

The portraits are very colorful and color-raw. Why have you chosen crayons for the portraits? So far, your projects have been very monotonous or plain in this sense why did you choose to paint the fathers so colourful?

I often work with crayons and very consciously use simple, almost childlike markers. I often use it to «warm up» artistically it comes from the thought that on the one hand, I can’t do anything «right» or «beautiful» with this specific material – i.e. free of the norms of having to do something right, which only allows me to focus on the “doing”. The other thought, which as I understand in relation to this project, is very important. Is that for most of us these crayons are directly related to the first steps of creativity, and we often have a very positive reaction to it.

It was important to me that the fathers were painted in this almost naĂŻve way so that the whole subject could produce a different dialogue right from the start. I wanted to show the fathers from a soft, almost childlike side.

I have the feeling that fatherhood is very cliché-burdened when it is shown in an art context. With this colorful portrait collection, I wanted to neutralize the whole theme of it and thus emphasize the human aspect.

You have done almost 50 portraits so far; did you notice anything in particular?

Actually, quite a lot, the project was or is full of surprises. For example, the first father I painted said he never knew his father because he died shortly after he was born. This was a bit of a shock for me because it was very unexpected. It struck me that many of the men found it difficult to relate a shared experience, not because he (their father) was violent or anything (there weren’t any storytelling problems regarding this topic) but because there simply weren’t any. A very heartwarming, but also a very frequently used sentence “My father was a very busy man, but when it came to something important to me, he always made time for me”.

Why do you find this sentence so special?

Men or fathers from the generation under discussion are often associated with the first aspect, i.e. rather absent or very disinterested when it comes to children or upbringing. This shows a side that is often not addressed: the father’s role in upbringing. I also have to say that there were often very beautiful human stories afterwards. It was just nice to be there and to hear.

The project hasn’t been shown yet, are there any plans to present it soon?

Yes, there were plans for 2020 to publish it, but Corona has put a stop to it. I’ve been asked about it again and again lately and the idea of ​​taking up the project again is not alien to me. Possibly with the developed gender topics he can even contribute something new. I’m definitely on the lookout for partnerships in this regard and who knows maybe next year.