This piece is probably the most popular piece of visual art I have ever made:
The piece is called ‘The Red Girl’ and her name is Dinah. This is how the piece came about.
In 2007 my mom had to undergo surgery and it was a very difficult year for our family. When the surgery was over and mom was healthy again I felt like I needed to get away, but not on a resort, on a soul-vacation. On a whim I decided to go to Peru by myself for a few weeks and hike the Andes. I had never traveled alone before so my parents were a little freaked out, but they understood that I needed to do this.
I ended up hiking a trail called ‘Lares’. The terrain was breathtakingly beautiful, but I turned out to have pretty lousy tolerance for high altitudes and spent much of the hike feeling sick and sorry for myself. There was also a lot of poverty in the area and I felt really powerless and guilty for being a tourist. Though I had been to India many times, this was my first exposure to poverty as an adult, and it really hit me. Especially the kids.
Then I entered this little rural village in the middle of nowhere and there was this little girl, Dinah. She was shy with the camera, but wanted me to play and chase her around. I took off after her and while I was running I snapped the pic that would end up being the basis for the red girl.
She taught me something important that day – that we’re never powerless; the little things we do to make each other smile are some of the most important things. She taught me to have a little fun too, and I ended up enjoying the rest of the trip much more because of my encounter with her. Afterwards I held an art show when I got home and the proceeds went to support local children’s charities in the Andean region. It also set the tone for the years of traveling that followed. I’m very grateful to Dinah for the part she has played in my life :)