Titi de Baccarat adds to a piece in his “Who Is It?” exhibition at the Union of Maine Visual Artists gallery on Congress Street. De Baccarat invites the public to add to the piece while at the gallery. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — Portland artist Titi de Baccarat said he received two gifts as a child growing up in a poor family in Gabon in Central Africa: “The gift of creativity and the gift of imagination for the future I want and the future I dream.”

Those gifts are on display this month at his “Who Is It?” exhibition at the Union of Maine Visual Artists gallery at 516 Congress St. The exhibit asks the public to reflect on their “individual and collective responsibility to eradicate the problems and respond to the challenges facing our community, our society,” de Baccarat says.

“We live in a world where is is a lot of inequality. There is a lot of challenges, injustice and drugs in our streets and schools. We have a lot of crisis. It is time we start talking about these issues,” he said.

He is hoping his exhibition is a vehicle to do so.

“Art is how I talk to the world,” he said.

De Baccarat uses items he finds at dumps and other locations. Materials include old clothes, sneakers, metals, newspapers and fabric. His sculptures and paintings represent issues like sex trafficking, immigration, homelessness and racial conflict. He said he doesn’t go looking for specific materials but rather picks those that inspire him.

These three de Baccarat sculptures will be auctioned off Saturday to benefit Survivor Speaks USA, a Maine-based survivor-led organization aimed at ending sexual trafficking and sexual exploitation. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“For someone like me who grew up in a poor family, looking in dumps and seeing the abundance of good stuff, that stuff started to talk to me,” he said.

None of the pieces in the Portland show are titled. That, he said, is deliberate.

“Sometimes an artist can manipulate the way people think. I want people to be free to have their own interpretations,” he said.

Through his art, he hopes viewers will “feel the weight, the burden and suffering of other people and be able to listen to their heart.”

De Baccarat is still looking for a studio where he can create his art, but until then, he works out of his home near Maine Medical Center and the Portland Expo.

He said he aims to “to bring about awareness and invite people to start taking action and become responsible for themselves and others.”

Photographer John Ripton, co-chairman of the Portland chapter of UMVA, said de Baccarat’s work was chosen for the gallery because of its message.

“It enables use to reach out to a broad audience in a socially responsible way to use art to represent deeper values and concerns,” Ripton said.

Ripton said it also was a nice follow-up to the gallery’s January exhibit.

“In and of itself, it is a show worth exhibition,” Ripton said of “Who Is It?,” “but we felt his exhibit was a good one to show in February following Susan Smith’s “Witness Art at the Border” in January that dealt with the immigration of people from Central America to the border.”

The UMVA was set up in 1975 and, according to its website, “is dedicated to upholding the dignity of artists, while creating positive social change through the arts, By collaborating with other cultural and progressive organizations, we raise awareness for significant issues while promoting an inclusive art community in Maine.”

Comments are not available on this story.