November 9th 2019, a day vividly recalled by Sophie Brussaux. It was during her first few months as a new first-time mother when she received the call that she, alongside other well-respected artists, were invited to the Vatican to attend the Third World Day of the Poor and to share their work with His Holiness Pope Francis. The invitation was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Sophie not only to meet someone she admires but also to share her gift with people who aligned with her humanitarian beliefs.
Honoured to have received the invitation from Etihad Gallery, Brussaux graciously accepted and went into artist overdrive to ensure she produced a piece that would be both intentional and personal. The urgency of the delivery deadline loomed as Sophie raced back to her studio in Bordeaux and began her portrait for The Pope. Sophie hand-painted the portrait with a great deal of purpose to ensure that her work was intentional in its alignment with Pope Francis’s benevolent goals and drive to make the world better and eradicate poverty.
The colours chosen for the portrait held tremendous weight as they each symbolized the purpose of the event. The inequities between the rich and poor is an injustice that the event wanted to highlight and put out a call to action. The portrait’s background is composed of loose, fiery red brushstrokes to evoke the urgency to end poverty and United Nations SDG #1: No Poverty. The green overlays induce a sense of hope, as events such as this with influential people like His Holiness bring issues to the forefront and empowers people to take action. Pope Francis’ image was captured in a bright, optimistic white, with an expression of radiating contagious joy that the world needs in every step of change. The unification of these elements emphasizes the pontiff’s trail-blazing dedication to fostering relationships with the international community of all socio-economic backgrounds.
Upon Sophie’s arrival, Pope Francis received all his guests in a private audience to converse about their shared goals of ending global poverty and a tour of the hall. Once Sophie and the other artists humbly presented their work, the assembly accompanied the Pope to the charity performance that evening. Although the performance deeply moved Sophie, the highpoint of that night was Pope Francis’ prioritization of who was in attendees; some of whom he invited off the streets just minutes before the opening. In a society that is highly focused on being seen, the publicity and media coverage was an afterthought, as the entire event centred around bringing together a community and enjoying the arts without discrimination or fear.
In an interview following the transformative experience, Brussaux reflected, “A couple of years ago; if you had told me I’d meet the Pope, I never would have believed you. I could never have imagined that my path would lead to this tremendous honour. I encourage all young artists and activists to stay true to your core beliefs because I believe you can change the world with your art.”