Celebrating the 2021 Foundation Trust Emerging Artist

2021 Emerging Artist Giselle Bonilla at her show (Photo by Tara Vocino)

The Foundation Trust recently hosted a gallery show to celebrate the work of the second Foundation Trust Emerging Artist Fellowship at Follow Your Art Community Studios in Melrose, MA.


Giselle Bonilla with Foundation Trust Executive Director Dr. Joseph Spinazzola (Photo by Tara Vocino)

Giselle Bonilla began the 2021 fellowship with a strong interest in the arts as a form of healing for the mind and the body, and has spent the last year developing her technique and growing as an artist. In the past, Bonilla’s primary medium of expression was writing, but she was glad to use this opportunity to expand more into visual arts, which she will also employ in her work as a mental health clinician and expressive arts therapist.


Bonilla brings her background as a woman of color and survivor of domestic violence to her artwork. “I wanted to do a series on my journey as an Afro-Latina survivor, using more than one modality, but I also wanted to include the moments I've had with other survivors who were a part of my healing journey in my artwork,” she commented. “Healing happens with others. Abuse is something that is not talked about enough. Survivors are scared or embarrassed to talk about it, especially within the black and brown communities and cultures. I want my series to start a conversation and be viewed by other survivors who look like me as a voice for them or a motivation to tell their story, and let them know that they are not alone.”

The exhibition of Bonilla’s artwork, entitled “Alignment,” was held on Friday, November 19 at the Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham.

Guests celebrating Bonilla's show (Photo by Tara Vocino)

Visitors to the show remarked on the bold designs, as well as the emotion that radiated from each canvas. Bonilla’s mixed media art incorporates dried leaves and flowers, writing, and collage. She draws the viewer into her world through the use of vibrant colors, words and strong imagery that create motion, enhanced further by her bold black backgrounds. Her art focuses on the chakras, nature, and writing which became a form of healing from abuse and other trauma that she has experienced.


Bonilla with her painting "Sahasrara" (Photo by Tara Vocino)

"In my art, I focused on the chakras as a form of healing based on how my chakras were affected by the abuse I have experienced as well as other trauma as a woman of color. I found healing in exploring my spirituality and I was able to connect with my highest self and reconnect with my body. My pieces show growth, power, love, and overall alignment. I hope that those who see my art can see themselves in them, and connect," shared Bonilla.

Giselle Bonilla with her sister and mother (Photo by Tara Vocino)

Family and friends gathered with other show attendees to support Bonilla and share in the glow of the evening. “I am very proud of my daughter,” the artist’s mother beamed.

Guests at the Gallery at the Greater Boston Stage Company (Photo by Tara Vocino)

Foundation Trust Manager Lauren Liecau and Artist Giselle Bonilla in front of "Anahata" (Photo by Tara Vocino)

As visitors spent time soaking in the paintings and diligently reading the descriptions, Lauren Liecau, Manager of the Foundation Trust remarked that “the evening was a celebration of how far Giselle has come, not just as an artist, but as a survivor. She has found a way to leverage her healing journey in a way that helps others. Her strength shines through in these pieces, and by sharing her vulnerability and her experiences, she is sharing that strength with others as well.“

2020 Emerging Artist Becky Flores-Mantilla and her family (Photo by Tara Vocino)

Sue Lembo, who has a background in fine art and graphic design, mentored Giselle through her fellowship. “It has been a joy to work with Giselle on her project, which is based on her journey of spiritual healing. Giselle has found a way to incorporate strong design with textural natural elements. The paintings are cohesive and carry a strong storyline,” Sue shared. “Her show was fantastic.”

Kris Rodolico and Sara Gravante of Follow Your Art Community Studios (Photo by Tara Vocino)

“Giselle and the team at Follow Your Art embody many of the values of the Foundation Trust, and it has been a pleasure to see the culmination of all their tremendous work this year,” commented Foundation Trust Executive Director Dr. Joseph Spinazzola.

Fundraising for Bonilla's nonprofit (Photo by Tara Vocino)

The event also served as a fundraiser for Time of Butterflies, a nonprofit Bonilla founded with her sister to provide culturally-sensitive support for survivors of domestic violence. Through donations and proceeds from painting sales, nearly $1,500 was raised for the nonprofit.


The Foundation Trust Emerging Artist Fellowship is awarded annually through a partnership with Follow Your Art Community Studios. This annual program is a cornerstone of Foundation Trust Funding Track 4, whereby we work to advance inclusivity in the arts and elevate traditionally underrepresented voices. In addition to studio space, mentorship, and a supplies stipend, the fellowship provides the Emerging Artist with visibility through a gallery show featuring the pieces they created throughout the year.


Details about the 2022 recipient of the Foundation Trust Emerging Artist Fellowship will be announced soon at www.foundationtrust.org. Additional images of Giselle's works are shown below.


Works by Giselle Bonilla, the 2021 Foundation Trust Emerging Artist

"Muladhara" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for Root Chakra. The chakra is largely responsible for how safe and secure we feel. This painting shows the Root Chakra coming into harmony in relation to the body. It demonstrates profound understanding that we are connected to nature, feel grounded, trust in the natural laws, and are able to move with the flow of life. While creating this painting it reminded me that I feel the most rooted when I am in nature, safe and the most at peace. During those days that are warm I would spend my time in my backyard barefoot and listening to the sounds of nature around me.

"Svadhisthana" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for Sacral Chakra. The chakra allows us to be in the flow of our creative expression in healthy ways, create and maintain healthy relationships, and as connected to the emotions aspects of sexuality in ways that sustain us. This painting shows the sacral chakra coming into fruition and balance as the branches branch out of the sacral chakra, while also growing out of different parts in the body. Exploring my creative and sexual self allowed me to find other forms of expression that allowed me to release any stagnant energy that was held in my body such as tension, pain, and stress. A lot of your trauma is held in the body.

"Manipura" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for Solar Plexus. When the Solar Plexus is in harmony, WE FEEL WHOLE, centered in who we are, know our self-worth, cultivate our personal power in healthy ways, and are in touch with our inner warrior. This painting shows a balance between spiritual and material worlds, we develop tolerance and acceptance, and feel inner peace and calm. I am at my best when my solar plexus is in balance. I do this through meditation, affirmations, and yoga. Reminding myself that I am where I need to be, and giving myself grace when it is needed.

"Anahata" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for Heart Chakra. When in harmony we are fully connected to ourselves and as an extension, others. This painting shows giving and receiving love genuinely, and cultivating compassion for self and others. I came to learn with time that when your heart chakra is blocked it is difficult for you to connect with others or even yourself. It is difficult for you to build healthy relationships, and my heart chakra was blocked for so long. Through learning how to love myself again through forgiveness, and letting go of shame I was able to open my heart again to others. I became more aware of the kind of relationships I want or don’t want to have with others and myself.

"Vishuddha" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for throat chakra. When in harmony our will to live is strong and we are able to follow our dreams. We speak our truth- where we say what we mean and mean what we say. This painting shows the balance between silence and speech, and expressing ourselves easily, creatively, and authentically. I struggled with my voice verbally for a very long time when it came to expressing myself to others, and because of that I explored other forms of expression such as writing. For a very long time my writing was my voice, but my writing was mine. When I turned 26 years old it was the first time where I began to speak my truth by organizing a spoken word event for my friends and family where I shared a lot of my poetry and writing. With time after that I began using my voice in many different ways where I made sure that I was being heard.

"Ajna" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for third eye. When in harmony we invite our intuition and awareness into everyday aspects of life. We trust our inner vision and act upon what our intuition tells us. This painting represents a deep knowing beyond what we can physically see, and are even in touch with our clairvoyance (the gift of taking in intuitive information through sight and vision). My third eye is something that I am continuously working on. Some days my third eye is wide open compared to other days. I am learning the difference between my intuition and my projections, and it is something that takes time especially after years of trauma that I have experienced, and transgenerational trauma that has been passed down.

"Sahasrara" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Sanskrit name for Crown Chakra. When in harmony we live in the knowledge of unity. The idea that we are all connected. This painting shows the understanding that we are individual reflections of the divine, trust that we are connected to the divine and an understanding that our individual identity goes beyond the physical form. This image ultimately shows an elevation of individual consciousness. This is the highest form of self to be in, and it is a working progress. I am still working on this through meditation, and the use of crystals.

"Bayahíbe" by Giselle Bonilla, 2021: Bayahibe is an indigenous word. The Bayahíbe rose, is a species of cactus that is endemic to the Dominican Republic. Sadly, the meaning of the word has been lost. This symbolizes alignment for me, especially finding alignment within nature. Written across the rose is a poem as a form of meditation dedicated to survivors of abuse and or other traumas that I initially wrote for myself, but these are words that are meant to be shared and seen by others.