Gisela McDaniel is a diasporic indigenous Chamorro artist based in Detroit. Her practice lies in social research, oil portraiture, emotional aesthetics, identity in diaspora, and the use of technology to fuse audio and visual representations of her subject-collaborators. As a survivor of sexual violence, she strives to create safe spaces for other survivors to forge paths towards healing and reclamation of their bodies. Working primarily with women and non-binary people who identify as indigenous, multiracial, immigrant, and of color, her work deliberately disrupts and responds to historical and contemporary patterns of censorship as it relates to the display and exhibition of women’s bodies, voices, and stories.
As a survivor herself, she aims to create an environment that allows women to collaboratively share their stories with varying levels of anonymity. These recountings are recorded and incorporated with sculptural oil portraits that include jewels, flowers and other meaningful objects belonging and/oor symbolically significant to survivors. Subject-collaborators exercise control over how they are represented, choosing how, in what space, and with what objects they choose to pose. Each choice reaffirms their autonomy over their own bodies and narratives. Portraits are triggered via motion-sensored technology when a viewer is within a certain proximity, creating an interaction that creates the possibility for empathy and greater understanding for those who have not experienced what these women have endured. Her work examines the impact of incorporating voices and chosen objects of survivors directly into paintings, an innovative combination that creates a space for empowerment and healing for the survivors and audience who listen to and bear witness to their stories.