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Leslie Elsasser - Introduction
Christian Cortes

Crimi Arrieta - Relative of US Army Veteran
Patricia Colbert - US Army
Gail Cross - US Air Force
Dr. Charlie Ferrer - US Army
Janine Hargrett - US Army
Valerie Larson - US Air Force
Kevin Lipton - US Army
Dolores Matteo - US Army
Karidad Ramis-Hartman - US Army
Roger St. Julian - US Army
Monika Sutton - Spouse of US Army Veteran
Viana L.M. Tavares-Fischer - US Army

Manfredo Bobadilla - US Army
Agustin Collazo Jr. - US Marine Corps / US Navy
Amanda Dodd - US Army
Evan Fountain - US Air Force
Derek Hopkins - US Air Force
Mikko Maki - US Marine Corps
Alicia Morales - US Army
Chris Smith - Spouse of US Army Veteran
Kimberlee Nicole Smith - US Army
RaeAnne Swanson - US Air Force


Christian Cortés, The Berries on My Man Purse, 2023.

Christian Cortes, The Berries on My Man Purse, 2023

Christian Cortes

With a simple premise and enthusiasm, the Breaking Barriers workshops were created to explore portraiture, a fairly common but complex aspect of photography. I have always been interested in how photography can portray our identity in so many forms and how it serves as a witness to time and change, a reminder that we will not remain the same, and that our identities are fluid. 

The process of making a portrait brings a level of intimacy that most photographers are not ready to embrace, but this year’s Breaking Barriers artists took on the challenge. We got up close and personal with strangers, we faced our insecurities, and we celebrated people that we care about. What each of us do and what we care for became an extension of our identity, and ultimately, also a portrait of ourself. The Breaking Barriers artists learned to consider portraits as not only faces. The portraits created during these workshops also depict our memories, the marks we leave behind, and the relationships we build.

Smartphones are familiar and powerful tools that Breaking Barriers artists have used in the past with remarkable results and this year is no exception. Our phones allow us to be inconspicuous, and open up opportunities for more genuine results. How generous! The artists in this catalog share pain, longing, and joy, and express how they experience the world. I am always amazed by the artwork that comes out of a workshop like Breaking Barriers. In just a few weeks the artists were willing to completely trust me and launch themselves into sophisticated and advanced concepts and subjects with tremendous confidence and spirit. I am delighted to share their work and stories with you and hope you are inspired.

Artist and Breaking Barriers Instructor



For more information:
Email Leslie Elsasser at

Breaking Barriers is a program by USF Contemporary Art Museum in collaboration with the USF School of Art & Art History, is supported by the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, USF Office of Veterans Success, Community Arts Impact Grant of the Hillsborough Arts Council, Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, Love IV Lawrence, USFCAM ACE (Art for Community Engagement) Fund Patrons, and the Florida Department of State, Florida Arts & Culture.