If one were to write a job description for all that Damien did, somewhere near or at the top of the list would be, 'advocate'. He wrote numerous letters fervently and often. He wrote to the State Board of Health. He wrote to his superiors in the Diocese. Some made enough of a difference to nudge the powers that be. I'm sure, often, he felt that his letters fell on deaf ears. He persisted, nonetheless.
In this letter to the Board of Health dated December 6, 1877, he wrote: "You are aware that for the general welfare of the lepers I have sacrificed my health and all I have in this world...Your most humble and obedient servant, J. Damien, Catholic Priest." (excerpt taken from "The Lands of Father Damien" by James H. Brocker: p. 21)
This is the background painting for "The Advocate". There is intent in all the color choices that I have made for each in this series of nine pieces. I pre-selected all of the colors that I had intended to use in this series, set them out and restrained from pulling other colors out as I worked. This makes the series more cohesive as a group, yet still lending a sense of individuality for each one.
Here, I am using skin or gel transfers again and making composition decisions as to the layout of the piece and how I want it to look when I am done. The image I used here was done by artist, Edward Clifford who came all the way from England in December of 1888 to pay his last respects to the dying priest. In this image (which was created within 6 months of Damien's death), all signs of leprosy were left out.
Damien wrote countless letters. What letters survived are in the state archives of Hawaii (and I imagine some are in Belgium). Because of Damien's activism and letter writing campaign, he did raise the level of awareness to the public. Many from around the world were moved by his work and dedication. Some would send him money and before any authorities could tell him what to do with it, he would buy clothes and shoes for the children there. Or food. Or building supplies.
A 'snippet' of the final image with the letter incorporated into the piece.