In God’s world, everyone has a place and is valued. Children were not meant to be hurt, regardless of whether they have families to love and protect them. I wish that the Sisters of Providence and the Catholic Charities had known this. Maybe some of the pain and suffering that occurred so needlessly and senselessly wouldn’t have happened. What child can understand the value of her own life when those who claim to represent God hurt her so viciously, sometimes without even breaking a rule? How can nuns and priests taunt innocent children with such intensity and to such an extreme that they take away those children’s dignity, self-esteem, and perhaps even their desire to continue to live? To whom could those children turn if the only adults in their lives acted as if it were God’s will that they be raped, molested, beaten, and humiliated? This is the story of the lives of the children at St. Joseph’s Orphanage/ Child Center.
THE ROCK PROJECT: TALKING ABOUT PROCESS, WITH KATELIN HOFFMAN
C: How did the rock paintings and inscriptions come about?
K: I did the writing first. I believe it was in 1996. Former children of St. Joseph’s Debbie, Dane and Donna Cote went for a tour of the orphanage. As they walked out behind the building to where the beach was, they spotted a seven-foot marble slab. Donna took out a magic market, and at the very top, she wrote down their names and the numbers they’d been assigned while in the orphanage. She also wrote In God We Trusted. This was thirty years later for them, and twenty-four for me. Debbie asked if I could write something on the rock as well. So, one day, I visited the site and walked down to the rock to see what they’d written. Underneath their words, I started writing. I also had only a magic marker at the time.
C: You’ve said you have a lot of photos of the rock in various stages of your artwork. How did your documentation of the project begin?
K: I took a picture of what I’d written so that I could show it to Debbie. She really liked it, and she said it should be the prologue of the book she wanted me to write. Later that summer, I returned to the rock. It was a private beach, all quiet, so, I thought, Well how about I draw a picture of the orphanage and a few figures, of Debbie, Dane and Donna?
C: It’s so moving and inspiring to hear about your process. How did the other images come to life?
K: I also painted a picture of the orphanage. Then I made a tiny self-portrait at the end of the first piece. I kept going back. I added the poem and the picture of an angel…I stuck the kids below the angel…. Finally, I decided to paint the whole rock. At the end of the angel poem, I painted a tiny figure of myself after I tried to kill myself.
C: What did it feel like to paint that?
K: It was empowering. Because it was my truth. It sums it all up.
--Katelin Hoffman and Carol Adinolfi in conversation