The Prints of Freedom by Michelle Finnegan (see also www.MichelleFinnegan.com)
The Prints of Freedom is the name of a painting portfolio I began in 2000 while I was sensing a deep injustice in the world. I chose to forgo my international traveling and international humanitarian work, for which I had previously been awarded a medal. Instead, one night while praying for direction and inspiration, I painted red stripes on a white canvas then painted the palms of my own hand blue and stamped them on the canvas near the top. I titled the piece, “Does the Banner Yet Wave?”
Not long after my first canvas was made incorporating my own hands, I found myself painting another canvas then stamping my hand prints into that as well. That was a painting of an island with palm trees on it that I entitled, “Real Palms”. Then came another painting. I noticed a trend in my own painting while I was also focusing more within the borders of our own country. Rather than send resources out of the country, I chose to help the people at home who were being overlooked by the majority and falling through the cracks and loopholes in the system. I slowly traveled from FL, to Boston, MA, through TX, to CA, traversing back and forth and up and down the country literally painting the hands of people then printing them on canvas to embody who that person is and what they do with their Freedom.
We had become a nation at war during this time. News reports kept reminding us the Twin Towers and Pentagon had been attacked by terrorists. US troops were being sent overseas to fight for our freedom at home. Friends I grew up with lost family and loved ones in the Twin Towers. Other friends and family volunteered to serve our country and were sent into war oversees. Meanwhile, citizens at home were falling through the cracks.. Enron and wall street was collapsing, the housing market was collapsing, lots of people were losing their homes or jobs and I was continuing my efforts to raise awareness to the lack of victims rights that I began writing about as an undergrad, the produced a film called, “Hung Jury” in 1999, only to lose one of my friends Ally Zapp who was an actress in the film one tragic night when she stopped at a burger king in a rest area and was murdered by a burger king employee who followed her into the rest room. It was later learned he had been previously convicted of more than 2 DOZEN crimes including kidnapping and assault including holding a knife on a 13 year old girl.
All my paintings at this time were incorporating hand prints only. I had even been asked to do several at charitable events live to be auctioned off the same night I created them. One event auctioned my painting for more than any other auction item that night! One of my paintings was created live on TV in NYC, too. Despite the seemingly whimsical nature of my art, my mission was sincere. With so much strife in the world, i really wanted to bring my joy into people’s lives and remind them they can make a difference. Every day we wake up and get out of bed we do something, whether for profit or not and the more we do it the more we leave a mark, either on someone’s heart or in the world at large. People were demanding we stay at war because we needed to defend our Freedom so i wanted people to think about how much Freedom they have and perhaps do not do much with. We should all put our hands and hearts into action to try to make the world a better place, or applaud someone else’s efforts, or ask a question, or share, or help, or hug.
I closed the portfolio in 2012 when the War on Terror was officially ended. I still ask people, “What do YOU do with your Freedom”? And that is how the Prints of Freedom came to be.