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Hermit Crab Essays as Artivism

This page illustrates some examples of my hermit crab essays, which utilize art as a tool of activism for promoting equitable outcomes for all marginalized groups.

This hermit crab essay uses the container of a bingo card, in which, each square holds a problematic statement from instructors at Canada's largest university. It was crafted from the artist's memory, based on her years as an Accessibility Advisor. This hermit crab essay was first featured in the Pandemic: A Feminist Response exhibition in 2020.
This hermit crab essay uses the container of a poem, and takes inspiration from the work of Camisha L. Jones. It is a response to the extensive white supremacist workplace trauma the artist experienced in the academic-industrial complex at Canada's largest university. This hermit crab essay was published in 2021, in La Libreta, an online poetry journal.
This hermit crab essay uses the container of a word search puzzle to visualize research findings from Arts' Etobicoke's Visualizing Deep Data story gathering and artist-led data collection project. This art was commissioned in 2023 for the Beyond the Bar Graph Art Exhibition. This was the uncensored art, with FREE PALESTINE NOW, not stated backwards.
This hermit crab essay uses the container of a recipe to visualize research findings from Arts Etobicoke's Visualizing Deep Data story gathering and artist-led data collection project. This art was commissioned in 2023 for the Beyond the Bar Graph Art Exhibition. This is an edited version to include the ingredient of TRAUMA in red to denote when Arts Etobicoke played the role of oppressor by censorship of the art, and subsequent gaslighting when they denied their actions after social media accountability posts.

My Creative Process

As a social worker committed to anti-oppressive practice since 2010, I turned to art to disrupt the problematic status quo. Despite supporting disabled students with academic accommodations as an Accessibility Advisor at Canada's largest university, I was often powerless to help when ableist professors refused to adhere to my recommendations, which prompted my 1st hermit crab essay. In University Ableism Bingo, I placed 24 tangible examples of how problematic post-secondary instructors weaponized institutional power against disabled students, many of whom, were also BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, etc.

In Art on My Mind, bell hooks stated, "It occurred to me then that if one could make a people lose touch with their capacity to create, lose sight of their will and their power to make art, then the work of subjugation, of colonization, is complete. Such work can be undone only by acts of concrete reclamation." Although my pursuit of art continues to jeopardize my ability to afford to exist under capitalism, I hold onto those words from the late bell hooks, who still inspires my work. Unfortunately, the late James Baldwin's insight that "Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have," remains true, so my artivism continues to illuminate how the complicity of unethical leaders with white supremacy and settler-colonialism still harm the most marginalized of us.

When selected as one of 6 artists to visualize Arts Etobicoke's research data for the Beyond the Bar Graph exhibition, it felt like a milestone as an artist. Although my University Ableism Bingo hermit crab essay was featured in the 2020 Pandemic: A Feminist Response art exhibition, it was digital, and only paid $75, so this would have been the 1st time I would receive thousands in advance to create new work for an in-person art exhibition. Unfortunately, I would soon be reminded of the costs that often come with paid work with a critical mind in a fat brown queer disabled immigrant/settler woman's body when my art was censored. By insisting that the FREE PALESTINE NOW message in my word search puzzle hermit crab essay be placed backwards, Arts Etobicoke played the role of oppressor by supporting genocide. 

In response, this Instagram post was my act of concrete reclamation; Arts Etobicoke's denial of art censorship in a performative ceasefire social media post 41 days after October 7 does not remotely change the reality of their violations. In Representations of the Intellectual, the late Edward W. Said stated, "Despite the abuse and vilification that any outspoken supporter of Palestinian rights and self-determination earns for him or herself, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual." I feel neither unafraid nor intellectual, but his words reiterate that the truth matters. 

When targeted for highlighting the complicity of unethical leaders with bigotry early in my social work career, I remember feeling devastatingly alone, as few told the harsh truth of these rigged systems. I understand how that was likely about self-preservation for marginalized social workers who hoped to remain employed in the field, but it did a disservice to BIPOC LGBTQIA+ disabled folx like myself, who were unable to make informed choices about this career path. The late Zora Neale Hurston stated, "If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it,” so I am committed to telling the truth even when it threatens my ability to exist, as to do otherwise would be unethical, and that will never be my legacy.