La Jolla artist takes her ‘MeToo’ performance to LA Art Show

The poster art for ‘Survivor!’ modeled by artist Elizabeth Tobias

La Jolla resident and artist Elizabeth Tobias’s latest work looks to change the discussion from MeToo to WeToo. At the 2019 Los Angeles Art Show this weekend, she will unveil “Survivor! Share Your 98 Second Story” a spoken- word and improvised sound performance with 23 artists reflecting on trauma through art.

The showing is 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 S. Figueroa St.

Intended to parallel the statistic that a sexual assault takes places once every 98 seconds, each presentation — up to the individual artist — is 98 seconds long.

“We’re trying to break the silence and go from MeToo to WeToo and create support,” she told La Jolla Light. “Poetry is a powerful form of expression and releases emotions related to trauma, so I thought a spoken-word (presentation) mixed with experimental sound would be compelling for the artists and the people watching.”

Participating artists to date include (some only going by one name) Tobias, Blake, Dawniel Carlock Stewart, Naomi Tara, Jen Snoeyink, Robyn Alatorre, Tara Gravis, Felis Stella, Jennifer Korsen, Jessica Joi Cole, Franceasca Seiden, Mona Lisa Lind, Aileen Seiden, Kayla Cloonan, Aliza Bejarano, Kellie Gillespie, Catherine Singer, Alexandria Yalj, Ryan Freeze, Ciana Lee and Yolie.

The artists participating in ‘Survivor’ include (back row) Felis Stella, Jen Snoeyink, Joi Cole, Kayla Cloonan, Robyn Alatorre; (front row) Naomi Tara, Elizabeth Tobias, Janet Wise Courtesy

None of the artists are poets, so Tobias added: “they are all going outside their medium and out of their comfort zone with courage.”

Although the artists have worked together in their artistic expressions, they have not shared the details of their respective assaults. Instead, the show is intended to be a reaction to their trauma, rather than a retelling.

“I hope the artists will bridge to something new,” she explained, “to show that they started in one place and are now in another narrative of their life ... that they have come into some new peace or level of self-forgiveness ... or whatever they need to take away from this, because then they can then go out into the community and hold that space for other people and artists and hopefully there is a trickle-out effect. If 22 people now feel more courageous and more able to share about what happened to them and hold space for other people, then hundreds of people could build on that.”

In terms of the audience, she added: “If one single person looks at us and feels more courageous about their experience, then we have encouraged one person to go from MeToo to WeToo. We hope to reach someone who will take our message and feel comforted and encouraged and creative.”

Tobias is a social-practice artist and trauma-informed expressive-arts therapist. She said she earned her MA in Spiritual Psychology from The University of Santa Monica and her professional diploma from The Expressive Arts Institute in San Diego, and her art has developed accordingly.

“Since the economic downturn, I stopped making objects to sell and started making art as a means of creating dialogue and inspire social change and awareness,” she said.

In a recent cross-country tour with her, “The Cupcake Project,” she exchanged cupcakes for people’s stories of struggles with hunger. The subsequent stories were written down on index cards and displayed.

Elizabeth Tobias in her studio Ashley Mackin-Solomon

When she moved to La Jolla, Tobias said she earned National Science Foundation fellowship through which scientists and artists collaborated to come up with projects that would impact and reduce climate change. She was tasked with creating a new water source, and with her team, came up with a sculpture that harvested dew from the air to make water.

She then joined the Expressive Arts Institute in Point Loma, which employs a trauma-informed philosophy that also uses art as a healing tool. “We all have our specialties in this field and we use all arts disciplines to work with different populations in need. ‘In need’ means someone has gone through a trauma and it is impacting their daily lives — a physical ailment, economic challenges, etc.,” Tobias said.

“We apply feminism, existentialism and deep observation and blend that with all the art forms: poetry, dance, painting and sculpture because you never know what a person is going to respond to, and you want to meet a person where they are (emotionally) and art is a pathway in.”

For the last three years, she has brought her expressive art therapies to La Jolla Elementary and La Jolla High Schools, as a pilot program. A voluntary offering, students can come and create art under the eyes of expressive art therapists that can look at the different levels of help students might need.

“We create change by talking about these issues rather than stay in suffering alone,” Tobias explained. “We meet every person where they are, so this type of artistic expression might not be for everyone, but in the years that I have been facilitating, most of the people I’ve worked with have found some benefit from this type of work. You don’t need skill, you just need to play, be open and see what happens.”

Tobias opened an office in La Jolla at 7445 Girard Ave., Suite 5. Learn more: