“If you walk by, you can look Truus straight in the eye”

On April 22, the statue of the heroine of the Utrecht resistance, Truus van Lier, will be inaugurated in the Zocherpark. Artist Joyce Overheul did the design. Truus van Lier was a member of a resistance group during World War II. She worked, among other things, as a courier and took Jews to hiding places. In 1943 she shot and killed a Utrecht NSB police chief at Willemsplantsoen. She was eventually arrested, deported, and executed in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. A street in Utrecht is named after her and Catharijnesingel is honored every year. In spring, on the grass in front of the Geertekerk, ‘Truus’ is depicted with daffodil bulbs. A statue will be added soon. We asked Joyce how she designed the statue and where she comes to rest in Utrecht.

How did the idea for this project come about?

“I looked at how many images of people there are in the public space of Utrecht: more than 160. Then I checked if it was a famous person or an anonymous person. The male-female ratio among anonymous images is well distributed. What was surprising was that 5 percent of the images of men are nude, compared to 50 percent of unknown women. In total there are 83 statues of famous people in Utrecht. 73 images of men and therefore only ten of women. I thought that the image of Truus van Lier should contribute to the representativeness: a recognizable image of a young woman”.

How did you go about creating the design?

“Only four photos of Truus van Lier are known. A childhood photo and the rest mainly of his face. What do you base a body on? So you have to fill a lot and who am I to do that? We know that he studied law. He wanted to find a current law student: the same age and somewhat similar, even in height. I found someone through someone: Juliëtte Meeuwsen. She has been a model for the body. She made molds of it. The scale is one to one. The statue is on a plate, not on a pedestal. As you walk past, you can look Truus right in the eye. He will soon be among the people.

How does the image look?

“The clothes have elements from then and now. The collared dress has a slightly more modern model. And wear shoes that can be worn both in the past and in the present. She is also holding an old-fashioned school bag. She refers not only to her student life, but also to her resistance life. Among other things, she smuggled weapons, letters, and newspapers that were illegal at the time. She has done more than just that settlement. Truus’s head has been modeled by a sculptor. I outsourced that, because that’s not my area of ​​expertise. I made the body and clothes myself. I also subcontracted the casting of the bronze statue: to the Flashh foundry. He was traditionally in Utrecht, but moved to Friesland. They still make the golden calves.

What topics does your work deal with?

“Lately, it’s often about equality, emancipation and feminism. On the dynamics between different people: how do we interact with each other and why? I work a lot with techniques that have long been in the ‘women’s hobby’ corner, like textiles. Traditionally wall hangings have been used to tell stories, but over time it became a ‘ladies thing’. I find it interesting to re-appropriate old techniques and trades as serious art. I have an old Singer sewing machine from 1873. That machine has been through wars and many other developments in the world. It still works like a charm. It’s special to do activist work with that.”

Where can you relax in Utrecht?

“In my studio in and around Vlam Pijpateliers: the entire Werkspoorkwartier. It’s very raw, industrial and also beautiful on it. There are also many chickens that enter the land from the park. These animals are completely integrated into the area and perch in the trees in the afternoons. If you walk at night, you can see ten of them sitting on the branches.”

What is Utrecht missing?

“There should be more permanent studio spaces for artists and creative entrepreneurs. There is a mega shortage, causing many creatives to leave the city. That’s a shame.”

What is your favorite place in Utrecht?

“All around the Ledig Erf. I have been going there a lot since my college days. The whole atmosphere there is very nice, especially to sit there on a summer afternoon.”

Where can you enjoy culinary delights in Utrecht?

“In Ledig Erf, shout to the nachos of Café Ledig Erf and De Poort, but also to the premises of the Voorstraat. I like small scale things where you can try something new, like Anan Saigon. I’m not a big fan of grumpy student cafes. You will not often find me in large-scale cafes in the Neude, but you will find me in Taplokaal Gist or Café de Zaak.”

Utrecht is…

“…my base of operations.”


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