ArtPrize artists visit GVSU to discuss human trafficking piece

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Alisha and Jason Joys piece from art prize, part of the Lion or Woman Project to fight Human Trafficking.

GVL / Dylan McIntyre. Monday, Oct. 9, 2017. Alisha and Jason Joys piece from art prize, part of the “Lion or Woman Project” to fight Human Trafficking.

Lillian Wiser

The creators of the ArtPrize entry “The Lion or Woman Project to Fight Human Trafficking” came to Grand Valley State University Monday, Oct. 9. 

GVSU hosted artists Alisha and Jason Joy, a married couple who create art together with the goal of raising awareness on human trafficking in the U.S., for a “Global Studies and Social Impact” conversation on art and human trafficking.

Alisha and Jason Joy’s ArtPrize entry, located at Gallery Divani, is a series of paintings that are framed in structures designed to look like cages. The paintings show nude women with lion masks covering their faces.

When asked about the idea behind their project, Alisha Joy said, “The pieces are right around the theme of human trafficking, so it’s really all about raising awareness and funding for local organizations.” 

The image of a lion resonated with Alisha Joy, and she was inspired to use the animal in the artwork.

“I was thinking about exotic lions and how it was interesting how we have so many being poached and going extinct, like different species that are really incredible and beautiful to look at,” she said. “I kind of view women as being sort of the exotic human species that are at a really big risk right now because so many women are essentially being exploited.”  

The artists said the perceived ease of human trafficking and their own life experiences gave them the drive to attempt to create change.

“In this country it is more profitable and less risky to buy and sell people than it is drugs,” Jason Joy said.

Alisha Joy said she wanted to make a positive impact against human trafficking.

“There are 21 million human trafficking victims worldwide,” she said. “I had a friend whose little sister was kidnapped. She was found barely alive. I want to make a difference.” 

The proceeds from Alisha and Jason Joy’s paintings will go toward fighting human trafficking, including providing assistance for women who are going through the process of healing. 

When asked why the couple decided to take the opportunity to speak at GVSU, Alisha Joy said she loved the idea of speaking to students. 

“The more people that are aware of it and what potential hazards are even surrounding them, I think it’s really important,” she said. “Aside from spreading awareness, (the presentation) would be to show people that you can take something that you are truly passionate about and you love doing, and you can do it for a good cause if you choose to.”

In the presentation, Jason Joy addressed the idea that “we all have the ability to make moral choices.” 

Adding to that sentiment, Alisha Joy suggested that people who want to help out the cause  look up their local organizations and see if it is possible to volunteer and help affected women, making it clear that money isn’t always the only thing of value people can offer. 

During the presentation, the Joys brought attention to what other artists who strive for social change have done with their pieces.

“This sort of idea to take art or visual media to promote social change isn’t new,” Alisha Joy said. “I mean, it’s been happening for ages, and so we’ll definitely reference people throughout history that have used art forms to do the same thing.”

She said she hopes to bring attention to the issue, especially from women who are studying in universities.

“I think that college women especially need to be incredibly careful of their surroundings,” she said. “Like every time I see a woman running around outside alone at night, I cringe because I think it’s so important to know, not only so you can help out, but also to protect yourself.”