With new art show and book, Kennewick artist shows we’re all ‘human after all’

Jaime Torres is one of the subjects of Madison Rosenbaum’s book, Human After All.
Jaime Torres is one of the subjects of Madison Rosenbaum’s book, Human After All.

Madison Rosenbaum asks her subjects to be vulnerable. To go deep.

They talk about addiction and recovery. About illness and struggle. About other challenges they face and ways they’ve overcome.

And there’s power in it.

So much power.

For them, for Rosenbaum, and for the community.

“Everybody has a story to tell, but not everybody has a platform to do it. For me, personally, participating in this has done wonders for my psyche. It’s helped me a lot,” said Jaime Torres, one of about two dozen people interviewed and photographed by Rosenbaum for her project, Human After All.

“I’ve been blessed to be part of this,” Torres said.

Human After All makes its debut in July in the form of a multimedia art show and coffee table book.

The idea is to examine the “vulnerabilities of humankind, while empowering both subject and viewer to explore sociopolitical barriers through an artistic lens,” says the book’s introduction.

The portraits and stories aim to break down stereotypes, inspire, enlighten and promote compassion and empathy.

Human After All grew out of a project Rosenbaum started while a student at Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Torres, 34, of Pasco, jumped at the chance to take part. He’s a local musician, currently part of Get ‘Em Tiger.

He was living in California when he woke up one morning about two years ago and started feeling sick. “I felt something very strange in my body. The check engine light was going off in my head,” he said.

It turned out he was experiencing a brain bleed, and it was debilitating. Torres was hospitalized and in rehabilitation for months.

He had to learn to speak, to sit up, to do all sorts of things again. He shared about his tangle with death and his path back to life with Rosenbaum.

In his portrait, he’s sitting on a bench at Columbia Park, playing an accordion — lost in his music.

It’s a perfectly captured moment in time, he said.

“Not everybody has that talent to capture the realness of people,” but Rosenbaum does, said Torres, who’s also a photographer.

“I like capturing real moments. I feel that she was able to do that with me,” he said.

Another subject, Christina of Pasco, also said taking part in the project was special. The Herald agreed not to fully identify her because of her story’s sensitivity.

She’s a recovering addict, clean now for nearly nine years, and she recently completed a bachelor’s degree in social work.

In her portrait, she’s casting off chains.

“It’s symbolic,” she said. “The way I’m pulling my hand out of that chain, I’m no longer bound. I’m no longer bound by my addition. I’m no longer bound by not being able to believe in myself.”

The project has the potential to make a difference in the community, she said. “It’s definitely going to start to change perspectives. I truly believe that,” she said.

The art show is July 21 at the DrewBoy Creative gallery in Richland.

The portraits will be featured, and attendees will be able to hear each subject’s story in his or her own words, thanks to audio recorded by Rosenbaum.

The book is available for pre-order for $25. It’ll be ready for pickup at the show or it can be shipped.

The book is being produced by DrewBoy Creative and published by Soulfound Entertainment.

Davin Diaz, founder of DrewBoy, said Rosenbaum’s talent blows him away.

“My favorite of her gifts is her willingness to take risks and be vulnerable. For me as an artist, that’s been the hardest thing to overcome — dealing with the idea of what other people think and being authentic,” Diaz said. “Madison at a young age has already come to grips with both of those things.”

She’s made a mark and still has “a whole career in front of her,” Diaz said. “It’s pretty humbling.”

Rosenbaum, 25, a Kennewick native, graduated from Southridge High School in 2010.

She went on to WSU Tri-Cities, studying psychology and digital technology and culture, and now works for Mid-Columbia Libraries as a graphic designer.

She’s always been curious about people and their choices, and listening comes naturally to her. She also believes in helping others however possible. That’s her ethos.

“The best thing about this project has been hearing from participants saying, ‘You gave me the opportunity to heal.’ I didn’t know I could give that to somebody through art,” she said. “It’s so beautiful.”

Rosenbaum said Human After All’s subjects — who come from all walks of life and range from young adults to a man in his 70s — showed courage and trust in letting her share their stories.

She’s grateful and excited to show the world.

“A lot of people my age leave (the area) and go to bigger cities. For a long time, I struggled with, why didn’t I leave? But there was always something telling me to stay. It think this project was why,” she said.

“It’s shaped and changed my world. It made me rethink how I engage with people every single day. That’s my hope for others, even if there’s only one person who walks away thinking, how can I be kinder to the person walking down the street, my neighbor, the person in the coffee shop?” Rosenbaum said. “I hope this helps people rethink the journey of others.”

For more on Rosenbaum’s art show and book, including to pre-order, go to tinyurl.com/humanafterallbook.

Sara Schilling: 509-582-1529, @SaraTCHerald