Annemarie Barrett, Activist Artist
Editor’s note: Annemarie Barrett—a returned FMS missioner who now lives in Cochabamba, Bolivia—shares the art that was inspired from her time on mission and that continues as an integral part of her life and activism.
Annemarie Barrett was an FMS missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for four years, so readers of this blog might feel they know her well from her more than 40 posts. But there’s another side of Annemarie that she is just beginning to publicize: her art.
The service work in community gardens with women in Bolivia that she has already described so well was just one way that Annemarie grew in the Franciscan charism. Alongside her service, she has used art as a means of self-exploration and self-expression. Now, Annemarie is sharing her art as an integral part of her reverse mission.
Just like her service, Annemarie’s art is about empowerment. Her time in Cochabamba started with working side-by-side with local migrant women while farming a small plot of land in a local parish. As she grew deeper in her relationships with the community, Annemarie joined the Mother Earth Pastoral Team at the parish, making a ministry of presence a priority in their work. Typical days were spent gardening with the women in their homes and sharing together in food that was most often harvested fresh from their gardens.
By the end of her term as a lay missioner, Annemarie was proud to be a part of the transition from an all-volunteer team into a grant-funded parish project with an all-employed local Bolivian team. Annemarie continues to reside in Bolivia, where she maintains close friendships with the women and men with whom she planted and harvested over several seasons.
Today, Annemarie’s cultivation process is different, but her artistic output is just as colorful and rooted in relationships. She recalls painting as a “source of consolation” when discerning ministries after arriving to Cochabamba. “In the first three months, I painted the first ‘& You Stood With Me’ piece as I was reflecting on my own spiritual experience as a woman, and on the experiences of many women I know and love in my life,” Annemarie says. “By the end of the first year, I had started to paint the women in Santa Rosa whom I was beginning to form relationships with in simple watercolor paintings.”
Service and art often happen together for Annemarie. Finding inspiration in her daily experiences of accompaniment, she would later reflect the idea or imagery within her art. Watercolors were also a way to connect Annemarie to her supporters, many of whom received original pieces connecting them more deeply to her presence in Bolivia.
Becoming an Activist Artist
A pivotal moment came in 2016, when Annemarie painted the second installment in her “& You Stood With Me” series, right before the mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Upon sharing the image on Facebook, Annemarie was surprised by the amount of attention it got. “That experience made me seriously start considering how my values and beliefs could be integrated into my art and could impact other people.”
Annemarie will now be making a difference from her home in Bolivia. She decided to stay on in-country beyond her mission term because she fell in love with the simple life and communal culture in Cochabamba. Although she chooses to live in the Southern Hemisphere, the former missioner’s paintings display a creative balance with her North American background. “I am bilingual and so is my art,” is how she expresses it. She believes sharing her art both locally in Cochabamba and in the United States is one way of living out reverse mission.
Striking portraiture is central to many of her works, and the subjects in her work are often people who have fought for justice in the face of marginalization and oppression. Annemarie’s hope is that her work can be of use in educational spaces like schools, social justice and activist communities, and local churches, as well as in the homes of those who share the good work of accompanying the marginalized and fighting for justice.
Her work is very much influenced by the relationships she formed with women in the local community in Cochabamba. Annemarie has since painted survivors of sexual assault in Oklahoma City, an environmental activist from Cajamarca, Perú and Zapatista women from Chiapas, Mexico. She believes their stories share much in common with the courage and resilience she witnessed daily in her friends in Cochabamba. She explains, “Painting portraits invites me to pay attention to the details and admire the beauty and humanity in each person. It reminds me to honor the wisdom and vision of those most marginalized among us.”
Annemarie plans to add more pieces to the “& You Stood With Me” series in the next few months and looks forward to pursuing opportunities with local Bolivian NGOs in need of illustration for some of their publications. She is also available for other commissioned art pieces. Annemarie says, “I am excited about the ways that technology can allow me to stay connected through art and across borders.” Always a member of our FMS community, Annemarie is committed to using her art as one expression of solidarity with those marginalized among us.
Selling prints of her art is how Annemarie hopes to sustain herself in this immediate transition from living and serving as an FMS lay missioner for the past four years. She has hopes of purchasing a small plot of land with her partner outside of the city of Cochabamba to begin farming more intensively. Each print she sells will be a direct contribution to the start up funds she needs to make that vision a reality.
Annemarie is also donating two Giclée prints of original watercolor paintings to the FMS World Care Benefit on May 5th in Washington, DC.
Support Annemarie by purchasing prints and greeting cards from her Etsy shop.