Look Me in the Eyes

Friday, May 3rd, 5-9PM
Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

Look Me in the Eyes is an art exhibition from Housing Matters. Artist-In-Residence, Abi Mustapha, curates a collaboration between people with lived experience of homelessness and local artists. Each artist through their respective medium will describe the unarmed truth of our shared humanity. This exhibition challenges preconceived notions of unhoused identity, symbolically breaking down barriers of thought that separate us from each other.

The artists and the lived experience participants will be in attendance at the show to discuss their work and augment the story behind each portrait. The artwork will be available for purchase and the proceeds of each sale are split equally with the artist and Housing Matters.

Date: Friday, May 3rd, 2024
Time: 5-9PM
Where: MAH – Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History , 705 Front Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Meet the Artists

Abi Mustapha

Artist’s Statement

Look Me In The Eyes, was born out of the desire to humanize, relate, and give visibility to members of our community with lived experiences of being unhoused through a compelling medium. The photographer, the artist, and the subject together help weave the story into visibility. Having a portrait show in this way brings many players into the experience each with their own life lens. Through this collaboration we are inviting the audience to experience where we intersect with each other’s story.


Abi Mustapha is a Sierra Leonean/American Contemporary Artist and a dedicated community activator. She earned her BA in Political Science with a focus on sustainability from Indiana University before embarking on a career in sustainable agriculture and permaculture. In 2013, she made the conscious decision to relocate from Indiana to the Bay Area to pursue her passion for art. Her artistic journey has led to exhibitions in galleries and museums across the Midwest and Bay Area, including notable venues such as the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Garret Museum of Art, The Richmond Art Center, and Joyce Gordon Gallery. Currently, Abi is an artist in residence at Housing Matters in Santa Cruz.

Beyond her artistry, Abi actively engages with the Santa Cruz community. She has played a pivotal role in founding and participating in racial justice initiatives in Santa Cruz over the past several years. Her creative expression is deeply rooted in the themes of human connection and nature, and her artistic repertoire encompasses murals, illustration, digital art, and portraiture. She is currently the Artist In Residence at Housing Matters. For more information about Abi and her work, please visit


Abram Katz

Artist’s Statement

As the photographer for this project, my intention was to capture an honest portrayal of each participants’ journey and to humanize the topic of homelessness. 

What touched my heart the most was how held and cared for each participant felt by the process. What often emerged was an authentic sense of dignity and personal triumph, contrasted by deep concern for those still on the street. 

Artistically, I am drawn to raw emotion and real stories. This often takes me into communities that have been neglected by our society; In the United States, you don’t have to go far. 

I hope this installation leads people to question the larger cultural constructs that lead to homelessness and be present with the feelings that arise.


As a multi-medium teaching artist, portrait photographer and film/theater director, Abram Katz offers rare insight into human behavior and a cultivated understanding of storytelling. Driven by a passion for personal growth and social change, Katz harbors a unique ability to source meaningful, transformative art from the human experience. Katz is an internationally published fine art photographer, 3-time film festival winner, and an artist grant recipient for countless social-emotional impact installations and civic engagement projects. Having founded multiple public charities and organized over 40 school-community restoration and prevention programs, Katz is a wealth of experiential knowledge in the realms human advancement and collective healing. Katz currently works as a fine art photographer, psychodrama facilitator, and creative arts teaching consultant. Abram Katz is most known for the deep level of care that he brings to his work and the communities he serves. Additional skills include: audio engineering, therapeutic folk medicine, wildcrafting, gardening, healthy cooking, and earth-based DIY practices.

Insta: @abram_ramal


Abram R. Katz

Allegra J. Bick-Maurischat

Artist’s Statement

“I work exclusively with found imagery, using collage and then drawing to rework by hand.I find this process of
documentation, examination, and reconfiguring pre-existing imagery to be a beautiful way of paying homage to the
original subject while simultaneously developing a new way of seeing through my hand and my craft. I consider it a
true honor to work with Porter and his image, to get to know him, and to share his story through this artwork. I hope
viewers will consider a new way of seeing and connecting through his lived experience.”


Allegra Bick-Maurischat (b.1989) is a Bay Area-born artist whose practice is grounded in drawing, but spans painting, cyanotype, and more. Her work is primarily concerned with history and ephemera, strongly considering the importance of visual documentation, reproduction, and the act of looking. Recent exhibitions include California Museum of Nature Art, Main Street Gallery (NY), TAG Gallery (LA), Visionary Projects (NY) and the Irvine Center for the Arts. Allegra has completed residencies at Greywood Arts in Killeagh, Ireland, the DAC Gallery in Los Angeles, and Stay Home Gallery in Paris, TN. She’s been highlighted in Arts to Hearts Project, Voyage L.A Magazine and Huffpost Arts, among others. Her work has also been commissioned for tv & film including Marvel’s recent Madame Web, NBC’s World of Dance & independent film The Singing Bones. Allegra received her BFA in Painting from the San Francisco Art Institute. She currently lives and works in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California.

allegra j. bick-maurischat  

she / her / hers


insta: @allegrajanebmstudio

Andrew Purchin

Artist’s Statement

I aim to see and cultivate the dignity, resilience and inherent good in all of us. 

I have been listening to, painting and filming unhoused and housed people on site for quite a while.  In 2013 I set up my easel on Coral Street in front of what now is Housing Matters. An unhoused person approached me and offered me an apple. From that time on I have been touched by the generosity and creativity of many unhoused people. 

In 2021 I started painting at the Benchlands encampment in San Lorenzo Park and I once again enjoyed creative, open hearted conversations with some of the people that were living there.  In 2022, I invited eleven visual and performing artists to participate in “What’s Home? Creative Listening Across Differences.” Each of these artists brought together an unhoused person and a housed person for conversation and creative collaboration.  This resulted in new songs, dances, paintings and visual art.  And I co-created eleven short 

documentaries about these experiences. 

Now, I am honored to be part of “Look Me In The Eyes.”  It is a delight to slow down, converse with and paint Toni.  My brush dances as it echos sensations and distinct feeling states as I feel into their essence.  There is something unfathomable and uniquely beautiful about all of us.


Andrew Purchin is a citizen artist whose practice is rooted in mixed media art, dance improvisation, film and psychotherapy. He graduated with a B.A in his own major, “The Arts and Social Action” from UC Santa Cruz in 1985 and a Masters Degree in Social Work from San Francisco State University in 1990.  With his Creative Listening Project, Purchin paints, listens and encourages creativity at sites where there can be grief, discord and celebration.  A  creative listening internet friendship led Purchin to travel Pakistan to create and exhibit  “Encounters on the Frontier” with artist Mohsin Shafi at the National College of Arts in Pakistan in 2014 and for Shafi to join Purchin to create and exhibit “Upsidedownland” at the Radius Gallery in Santa Cruz in 2015.

Purchin’s collaborated with the public as they marked on The Curious Scroll at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2016 and in Santa Cruz County before the 2018 election.  Purchin received the 2020 Ron Kovic Peace Prize for his short documentary, The Curious Scroll.  Purchin is a 2022 recipient of a Santa Cruz City Arts Recovery and Design Grant for his social practice and documentary project about our housing crisis, “What’s Home? Creative Listening Across Differences.”  This project also garnered a grant from the Awesome Foundation of Santa Cruz in 2023.

Erika Rosendale

Artist Statement

I am interested in this opportunity to give a voice to those who rarely have one. The title of the project could not be more relevant and that alone already inspires me to change my approach to those in society that are less fortunate. I believe an artist’s role is to express the culture of the times that we are in, and homelessness is a massive part of the contemporary world, often ignored, which we cannot afford to pass by, eyes averted, any longer. 

I have been a practicing artist since I graduated from Boston University’s College of Fine Arts with a BFA in Visual arts, with a focus on the figure and portraiture. More than the hands, I trained my eyes. I learned I was decent at art in 7th grade when I used to draw my classmates, and they came out accurately in a matter of minutes. I would be honored to paint a portrait of a member of our community, shining light onto their story, and hopefully into their eyes and the eyes of our collective community to inspire awareness and ultimately, change.


Erika ‘Teal’ Rosendale was raised in the redwoods and sandy seas of southern Santa Cruz county beginning an art practice at an early age inspired by comic books, developing an early super hero complex. This grew into a love for painting, which she took to study on the east coast, earning a BFA from Boston University. Her focus on figurative art took her abroad to Europe, spending a semester in Italy, where she would return later for a new round of studies with the Vienna Academy of Visionary Art.

Back in Santa Cruz, she joined the Made Fresh Crew Art Collective, working on the Mission St. Clean Oceans Mural, the Santa Cruz BLM street mural, and two international mural festival productions with Pangeaseed Foundation – Sea Walls Artists for Oceans in Santa Cruz, CA and Emeryville, CA. In Santa Cruz she was the Lead Ground Operations for the festival and lead on the Ops crew mural in the downtown library parking lot.

In the summer of 2022 she painted in Sand City’s Mural Festival and was invited to participate in the premier Noisy Waters Mural Festival in Bellingham, WA in the summer of 2023. She won the 1st Place voters choice award and will be back in Bellingham this summer to paint two large murals, one in collaboration with the festival director, and one solo commission, as part of the award. This last fall she won both the judges and voters choice awards for Talking Walls – Art Battle in Sand City, CA. Her memorial piece for River Birchall at Bill’s Wheels Skateshop won the 2022 Swellies Award for Best of in Public Art in Santa Cruz Waves Magazine, which helped inspire the founding of the River Birchall Foundation. Recently she joined The Method Makers: A Global Artist Network and was accepted into Muros: A Global Art Activation Agency both based out of the Bay Area.

You can find many of her elemental and feral creatures on walls all over the county, stretching into San Benito, Monterey, and Humboldt. Public art and collaboration have the power to truly change the world, a belief that drives her forward on the vaguely ambitious mission to save the world with art.







Evan ESK Wilson

Artist Statement

“One of the most powerful effects of art is its ability to highlight the unseen, amplify the unheard, and direct the attention of the observer to where they might not have looked. That, I feel, 

 is the power of this project, a direct engagement between artist and subject, subject and viewer, and the common human experience that they share. This undeniable experiential overlap belies the supposition that if one is unhoused, one is less than, and that by being houseless, one somehow loses their equal share of humanity. With this project, I hope to highlight instead the similarities between viewer and subject, and raise that shared human experience to the level of sacred, with the ties that bind us bringing us closer together without the privileges and burdens that separate us as lenses that distort the truth: we are all humans deserving of love and compassion.”


Evan ESK Wilson is a fine artist, calligrapher, muralist and tattooer based in Northern California. Evan was born and raised in Davis, California, before attending UC Santa Cruz, graduating Cum Laude with a BFA in 2009. Evan stayed in Santa Cruz after graduating to continue painting and exploring a multitude of artistic expression, showing in a range of galleries in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and beyond. He then moved to Sacramento to do his tattoo apprenticeship, after which he moved to Oakland where he tattooed and made art on walls and canvases for the next 10 years. In 2020, Evan relocated to the North Bay where he started a family and opened his own tattoo studio, Redtail Tattoo, in 2023. Evan now tattoos both at Redtail Tattoo in Cotati and at War Horse Tattoo in Berkeley, as well as travels for a multitude of guest spots and conventions across the country, as well as making art in a wide range of media.

@evaneskwilson, @redtailtattoostudio

Harley Hudson

Artist Statement

Hi! I’m Harley, a local photographer here in Santa Cruz. Being a part of this project is so dear and close to my heart for so many reasons. I have experience being homeless here in Santa Cruz. In my time being homeless, I remember being downtown, and feeling so invisible. Feeling so unseen. Now that I have gotten myself in a better situation, I would like to use my resources and my voice to help amplify the voices of others. We are all here, doing the best we can. Sometimes we just need a little bit more compassion. I know it can be hard times for a lot of folks financially right now, but sometimes when all you can give is a smile, or a simple hello,  that can be worth so much more. 

In my time of being homeless here in Santa Cruz, yes, there were plenty of struggles. Where was my next meal coming from? Where was I going to set up to sleep that night? Were my belongings going to be stolen? I felt a deep sense of insecurity. Out of all the challenges I faced, the feeling of being so “unseen” by the community is the one that hurt the most. Being constantly ignored, looked away from, treated with little or no respect – how could it not mess with someone’s mental state?

I was able to get off of the streets, but now that I am I want to fight for those who are still there. I want to use my voice to amplify theirs. So many people are struggling with feeling unseen, feeling worthless. So many people in our community are suffering from mental health problems and other illnesses that require care. People in our community are fighting the elements while living in unsanitary conditions. It breaks my heart. I’d like to use this opportunity to bring awareness to these issues. I hope to bring another perspective, and to provide resources and ways to help. We are ALL a community, and it is going to take effort from all of us to fight this issue.  Every human deserves to have all of their basic needs met.

Bio (Coming Soon)

Karina Jade Neeley

Artist Statement

As a 30-year-old BIPOC artist and native Californian residing along the coastal shores, my journey through art at UCSC has been a profound exploration of humanity. Drawing and painting individuals has long been my passion, offering me a canvas through which I dissect and celebrate the essence of people.

In my artistic process, I delve into the intricate interplay of shapes and colors, beyond surface appearances to uncover the rich tapestry of human existence. I find immense joy in observing the way light dances upon the skin, revealing a myriad of hues and undertones that transcend conventional notions of browns and pinks. Instead, I’m drawn to the jewel tones and vibrant vibrations emanating from within each person.

Approaching my subjects with a childlike wonder, I employ color, shape, and line to capture not just their physical likeness but the essence of their being. Through my art, I seek to offer viewers a glimpse into the soul of humanity, inviting them to see people for who they truly are—complex, radiant, and endlessly fascinating.


Karina Neeley, a California native, is a 30-year-old artist who began her creative journey studying art at Monterey Peninsula College before pursuing further education at UC Santa Cruz. Rooted in a deep appreciation for the natural world, her artistic endeavors serve not only as a means of introspection and personal growth but also as a bridge to foster connections within the community. As she navigates my path as an artist, she is steadfast with the commitment to exploring diverse avenues of expression through multimedia and cultivating meaningful relationships within the vibrant artistic community.

Kyle Sanders

Artist Statement & Bio

This project was brought to my attention by members of my crew Made Fresh, who’ve made extensive contributions to the Santa Cruz art community. Due to the increased economic inflation I no longer live in Santa Cruz, but during my time there I experienced multiple eras of homelessness. My first address in the county was General Delivery at the Homeless Shelter. I’ve walked many miles in those shoes, a time etched into my history. 

I see this opportunity to use my artistic talents to raise awareness of the humanity within someone experiencing the confines of the dusty corners of our society, as a way to illuminate hope and possibility. If only to briefly immortalize someone so that we may learn a level of understanding and possibly acceptance. Without the doors of awareness, how might we enter to realm of engagement leading toward solution?

Marsa Greenspan

Artist Statement

We have everything we need, right now, to build an equitable community where diversity and interdependence are celebrated. We have each other. Every one of us holds a piece to the puzzle. No one should be without a home in Santa Cruz. No one. 

Social justice is possible and much more likely when our imaginations are connected, inspired, and empowered. Art’s role in social justice work is to offer makers, subjects, and viewers a shared sense of creative social agency. We are more powerful than we will ever know, and especially when we stay connected.


“It is a struggle to embrace human vulnerability as a vital and even heroic characteristic. Monterey Bay has been a place where I have discovered strength in vulnerability. 

My inquiry into the relationship between strength and vulnerability in visual culture began with a video of the Monterey Bay Coastline that I took in 2013 to somehow incorporate into my paintings; I hoped to steal some of its power for myself. As I was recording, I made a choice to identify with the vitality and mutable strength of the ocean’s waves, rather than the stoic inflexibility of the rocks. That distinction has informed all of the art I’ve made since I began incorporating video into my painting practice, to embrace fluid forms of strength with vulnerability at their core.

The ultimate goal of my work is to express the innate connection between human strength and the vitality of our natural environment.” 

Marsa moved to California from the Gulf Coast of Florida in 2010. She has been developing her figurative painting practice for about twenty-five years, and has been working at Housing Matters in Santa Cruz for the last eight.

Max Rain

Artist Statement

I appreciate that this exhibition seeks to humanize and individualize people experiencing homelessness. I believe that this theme aligns perfectly with the work I am already creating. The source of my imagery comes from the everyday aspects of contemporary urban life. I’m fascinated by how seamlessly the extraordinary, the heartbreaking, and the mundane domestic facets of humanity all seem to blend in the metropolitan environment. In my work, I attempt to create snapshots or captured moments of our surroundings, and I welcome the opportunity to focus on a specific marginalized member of our community.


Max is an artist and educator living in Aptos. He received his MFA from UCLA and has shown his work both locally and internationally. Max has been teaching art at colleges since 2009. He is currently the head of sculpture and ceramics at Gavilan College in Gilroy, and he also teaches ceramics at the Stroke and Disability Center at Cabrillo College. He works primarily in ceramic, drawing, and painting, and his subject matter tends to focus on the community around him.

Melissa West

Artist Statement

In my prints I have often depicted the characters who populate myths, legends, and fairy tales, but lately I have been particularly interested in the concept of saints and sanctity. 

Who are our saints?  What do we hold holy?  What do we protect, preserve, value, or love?  Or, more tellingly, what should we protect, preserve, value, or love?

This project resonates strongly with me as I try to find the sacred in the everyday and the individual.

My social media:  Instagram     Facebook


Melissa West is a printmaker whose work often focuses in the political, loosely defined. Her influences include Goya, Kathe Kollwitz, Elizabeth Catlett and Leopoldo Méndez.

West lives and works in Watsonville, where she shares a home with her wife and three extraordinary cats.

Sarah Bianco

Artist Statement

I recently painted 2 close up portraits of my own eyes, and was surprised to get so many reactions.  They were quite a conversation starter, and I think it would be interesting to look into the eyes of a stranger, and see what they would inspire in me to create.  The eyes are such powerful communicators, and are indeed the windows into the soul. I believe that this project will be a potent reminder that all humans, regardless of our socioeconomic status, outwardly appearances, or present problems, all have the same basic needs of food, shelter, clean water, connection and love.  I believe this can be a step towards accessing more empathy and compassion to continue to find solutions towards the complex problem of homelessness in our community. I also think it would be fun and an honor to participate in an art project with Abi.


Sarah Bianco, originally from Indiana, has lived most of her life in Santa Cruz after graduating with a BFA from UCSC.  Her love of color and fascination with the mysteries of life are revealed through her paintings, which have themes of self-inquiry, interconnectivity, childlike wonder, and the paradox of discomfort and exhilaration that exist at the threshold of change.  

Sarah also is a licensed painting contractor and runs her business, Painting by Bianco, specializing in murals, decorative paint finishes, and color consultations.

Residing at the Tannery Arts Center, she works out of her studio, Apricity Gallery. This space showcases her artwork, as well as hosts other guest artists and community events.  Sarah can predictably be spotted wearing paint spattered clothing & accompanied by her sweet little dog, Leela.

Taylor Reinhold

Artist Statement

I have compassion for the homeless community in our town, growing up in Santa Cruz I have a lot of family and friends who are still living on the streets. I think this show is a great way to celebrate these folks and challenge our broken system.


Taylor Reinhold had found his passion in creating, designing, and producing original art with fellow skilled artists in the Made Fresh Crew collective. Reinhold also enjoys painting and silk screening on objects from the urban landscape, such as recycled spray cans, signs, and forgotten waste.

Reinhold has found his calling in painting murals and designing logos. He has excelled in design, art curation, and large-scale installations for Burning Man, Poly (Plantronics), Comcast, and LinkedIn. His creative murals are found around the world in Brazil, Costa Rica, Tanzania, and Thailand, to name a few.

In his newest endeavor as Director of Sea Walls Santa Cruz in September 2021, Reinhold brought PangeaSeed Foundation’s global Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans program to Santa Cruz, California to create 19 ocean conservation-themed murals. The Sea Walls project was completed in a week with over twenty-five artists from Santa Cruz and across the country. 

The large-scale artworks speak to locally relevant, pressing marine environmental issues such as plastic pollution, ocean acidification, warming seas, local biodiversity loss, environmental justice, and more. The mission is to empower individuals and communities to create meaningful environmental change for the oceans by raising public awareness of critical environmental issues.

In 2009, Reinhold founded Made Fresh Crew, a collaboration of Santa Cruz artisans working on art projects locally & internationally. From their 500ft long ocean sustainability Mission Street mural to numerous large-scale community projects, Made Fresh Crew draws inspiration from street art, education, and activism. Their artistry extends beyond murals to include pottery, glass blowing, videography, painting, and jewelry making. 

Taylor Reinhold