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Moleskine exhibit at One World Observatory sparks conversations on society

Artists deconstruct, recreate Moleskine notebooks in new exhibit
Artists deconstruct, recreate Moleskine notebooks in new exhibit 01:48

NEW YORK - Moleskine notebooks are popular for journaling, planning and jotting down notes, but in a new exhibit open now at One World Observatory, artists are using the notebooks to share their thoughts in a different way.

The Moleskine Foundation's latest Detour exhibit sets a grand stage for artists to spread their messages far and wide.

"We really believe that creativity can change the world, if especially young people in underserved communities are embracing their empowerment and agency," said Moleskine Foundation president Maria Sebregondi.

Some of the 75 selected works came from artists supported by The Africa Center in Harlem. Erikka James used her experience working in a cohort there to visualize communication beyond words.

"I wanted to incorporate some of these everlasting conversations into my notebook, and sort of went into dialogue with each page," James said, "Some of the pages are crinkled, some are twisted, some fit together, and the idea is that they're talking to each other."

While James used water to create, artist Leilah Babirye destroyed her notebook's edges with fire, mimicking her own pain as a young queer woman from Uganda.

"My coming out, how I realized I was gay, all the tortures, everything that I really passed through at that particular time from my childhood is in that book," Babirye said.

Babirye has not spoken to her disapproving father in nearly a decade, but through her art, she found a new voice.

"From the fact that it was about pain and how we feel," she said, "now it's about creating our own community and how can we create people that believe in us, our own clans, our own cultures?"

There are many deep, personal messages embedded in the diaries. The collection contains more than 1,300 notebooks, with rotating samples traveling the globe.

This is the first time One World Observatory has hosted an art exhibit, and the first time in nearly 20 years the Moleskine Foundation has brought its collection to New York.

View the books and the skyline at One World Observatory through May 22. View the full collection online.

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