Author: sehonan

Think Consent

These 25 case files are perforated with gaping holes. Many are still open homicides and thus law enforcement are careful to keep important details such as cause of death from the public eye. But if you’ve read them as often as I have some things become increasingly obvious.  11 of the women were found either without pants or completely unclothed (and a startling number still had their socks.) This means that in all likelihood at least 44% of the cases I’m working on were violent sex crimes and this is excluding the killers that bothered to reclothe their victims.

The psychology and cultural influences behind rape and sexual assault have long been a source of both fascination and disgust for me. After watching documentaries such as The Invisible War I felt the need to discuss the issue because unlike topics such as female role models and lack of political representation for women the growing problem of sexual violence seems to be slipping deeper and deeper from public discussion.

Feminism is most certainly a fashionable topic among twenty-something students today and so it should be. I give credit to my elder and much wiser sister for introducing me to Miss Representation which since seeing over 2 years ago I have been a proud and card carrying feminist. But it seems there is still much work to do on the world’s stage.

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The universal popularity of feminism can certainly still be called into question. 2013 was undoubtedly a year for feminist discourse – between Robin Thicke’s undeniably catchy date rape anthem and Miley Cyrus’ latex twerking debacle.  Discussion is great but the fact that we still have to argue whether a club crowd of 400 + chanting lines like ‘I know you want it’ and ‘the way you grab me/ must wanna get nasty’ has an influence on both men and women is frankly quite insane. And Thicke was just the only one brazen enough to combine explicitly derogatory and dangerous lyrics with a jingle so memorable that it became a summer sensation. Music like this is everywhere.

The trouble is that it’s not just music. It’s been estimated that adolescents are exposed to various media sources for over 10 hours each day. This means that while girls are listening to these diminishing lyrics they may be flicking through a magazine where they are told page after page, ad after ad that they should be striving to attain an inhuman epitome of beauty and that working hard and becoming self-fulfilled just isn’t enough. They take time to watch tv instead and inevitably flick to E! while presenters question whether the latest starlet is pregnant (or maybe she just had white carbs for lunch) while at the same time deplore an actress for being too thin and sending a bad message. And if they want to shop online, ASOS is there to tell them via their ‘size guide’ that their measurements should look something like a 36″ bust, 25″ waist and 36″ hips – the perfect hourglass.

Meanwhile, teenage boys are learning from various porn sites that it is simply not natural for there to be one strand of hair anywhere on a woman’s body besides her head and above her eyes. They also learn here that to be a man is throw your woman down and give absolute reign to your primal instincts – and she’ll appreciate this every single time.

This is 10 hours a day, 365 days a year and yet we still have to ask ourselves how much influence media has on both ourselves and the younger generation. The time when parents and teachers were 100% responsible for adolescents moral compass is long gone. Today, the media parents both us and our children.

The term objectification has been overused – are women seen as sex objects in the media? Undoubtedly. But more importantly they are dehumanised. Men are taught to value women only for their sexual attributes and women respond in valuing themselves this way too. The harsh reality is things are just not getting better. If you go on to IMDB, the largest public voting database for movies and televesion, among the top 20 tv shows of all time only 2 feature a female lead and these don’t even count because they’re ensemble casts. Meanwhile among the top 50 movies only 3 have a female lead. The most recent of these 3? 1994. So for over twenty years a movie lead by a female has not merited being included in the top 50.

Dehumanisation has occurred often throughout history – it’s how dictators incite genocide and how racial and religious hatred is maintained. The scary fact is that in these cases violence was dependent on the sense of there being an ‘other’ not like us but here not only are men, under the deep impression of media influence, dehumanising women but women and girls are dehumanising themselves. Instead of teen media promoting figures like Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey or Wendy Davis the female ideal is a hyper-sexualised cookie cutter image of “empowerment.” Men don’t need to rely on their sexuality to be seen as powerful so why should women?

The relevance to sex crimes? What is your immediate reaction when you hear the word ‘rapist’? Most men and women (including myself) picture a dark alley, a man in a trench coat wearing a ski mask. Or some variation. But in reality the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland reported in 2011 that 90% of perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the survivor. The even bigger problem is that a huge proportion of these men don’t think of themselves as rapists because of the simple fact that we are not teaching men and women what constitutes sexual assault. More often than not rape doesn’t necessarily involve a brutal struggle and it doesn’t have the obvious signs but not saying no does not mean yes.

We have national television adverts and school sessions dedicated to ‘Think Contraception.’ Where is the ‘Think Consent’ campaign? Does it really kill the mood that much to simply utter the words: “Do you want to do this?” 6 simple words. Unfortunately, not only is preventing rape the issue but when a survivor has the strength to come forward she is often revictimised by the judicial system. And before even coming forward she may google some things to research what she has experienced:

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It is possible that sexual assault is one of the only crimes where the victim is essentially put on trial. The bruises? She liked it rough. She flirted/danced/ kissed me. She passed out? Well she shouldn’t have drank so much, worn that dress, she was asking for it. Victim shaming is possibly the most repugnant part of the crime itself. If you leave your door unlocked accidentally and are burgled will you be asked: Did you want that to happen? If you get drunk, pass out  and wake up to find someone has stolen your bag: But you really wanted that right? And if someone leaves their DNA on you this is suddenly a different matter.

As long as we keep blaming the survivors we are both letting the perpetrators know that they can get away with it and simultaneously telling victims that their word and forensic evidence simply isn’t good enough.

Hence, the vicious circle is complete. The media conditions both men and women into accepting rape culture and when the crime is committed we are more likely to question the victim rather than the assailant. Sexual assault is both underreported and even when it is prosecution is extremely difficult. This isn’t a woman’s problem, it is a human problem. As long as one half of the population is underrepresented be it in politics or the media we will never receive a balanced view of the world. Media conglomerates simply have to be held accountable for their insidious and blatantly dangerous impact on the population as a whole because as much as we like to think of ourselves as being autonomous we are simply the sum of what we’re exposed to.

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Day 74 – Time Lapse

So here’s a time lapse from the first day of painting on the woman who Blink. was accidentally named after. She had a healed scar from having lost her right eye and when I was writing the poem you can find below I reference this in the second stanza.

Obviously only minimal progress can be made in a day so this is just an indication of what’s been going on here!


Day 72 – Moving Forward

After our extremely successful funding campaign I took a little hiatus from blogging for a few reasons. 1) I’ve been extremely busy ordering, collecting and organising canvases. 2) I felt a distinct lack of thoughts to express and it is my utmost intention to keep this fresh, interesting and spontaneous. And 3) It felt a little like when someone gives you a gift that is far too generous and you’re not sure exactly how to react.

Me, a professional at planning what to say and when exactly I should say it, gave no thought as to what should be said upon reaching our goal. All I can do is thank you, again, and let you know that Fundit has sent me the project report and I will be in contact with you all with regard to rewards etc.

Now the admin out of the way, I am proud to let everyone know that as of now I have sketched all 25 faces on all 25 canvases and have made substantial progress in painting.

Tonight, I hope to upload a small video as a sign of my gratitude, of a time lapse of my days work. Of Course, there’s only so much that can be done in a day so it will not be close to a finished piece, which I will be keeping hidden away until close to their completion so as to protect the impact of the finished works.


Day 53 – Lost Threads

I’ve found it difficult to write as of late  and I explained that this can largely be attributed to my inability to put myself out there. I’ve also spoken of the importance yet striking frailty of the connections we make throughout our lives. And again with the startling and heart-breaking documentary Dreams of a Life in mind I wonder who would be the first to notice my absence?

For any of you who don’t know the film, Joyce Carol Vincent was a woman who at the age of 38 died in her London bedsit and lay there undiscovered for over three years. Director Carol Morley subsequently tried to piece together Joyce’s life through her friends and people she had known. According to all that knew her she was sociable, full of life and even met people such as Nelson Mandela and Stevie Wonder. The story of Joyce’s life and death has haunted me for well over a year now since I saw the documentary and I know of many others who were affected thus.

After watching such a film you immediately want to reach out to those closest to you, just to check in. 

The women who are a part of Blink. don’t even have those to speak up for them, they don’t have the voices that keep them alive through telling stories, reliving memories, paying tribute to them. This, surely, is the least we can ask for in death? And who would check in with you? I can rattle off a list and I’m sure you could too because in this golden age of technology and instant communication we think, we assume, that we are so safe, so acknowledged, so connected.

But connection is a double thread and if one end breaks how long will it take for the other end to feel the effect? For most of us these threads, sometimes the ones we think most solid, are stretched miles, oceans wide through the complexity of the ether and this is undoubtedly an essential part of maintaining these connections in modern times. I’m not a life coach, I can barely manage myself but it seems logical that every now and again, more often than we think necessary, our threads need to be serviced. We must reign them in so that a key pad, an iphone or a camera is no longer the catalyst for communication.

This, as all things, is easier said then done but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. We’ve all seen in one form or another how distance, how lack of face to face contact can be as sharp as a blade to any relationship as an argument or a betrayal. But there are those relationships, usually with family, or partners or very close friends that can withstand this test and even if the people don’t stay constant the relationship does.

However, take stock, real brutal stock because these exist in the handful, not the dozen. Who would you want to be the first to ask of you’re whereabouts? Who do you know that undoubtedly thinks of you on a daily basis even for a fleeting moment? And how many people would know the thread has been cut before the effect reaches them?

Women like those in Blink. and Joyce Carol Vincent fell through the cracks that we like to pretend only exist for weird people, the “others,” those who are not like us. But I’m sure each and every one of them did not foresee this as their legacy, did not think this would be the result of their life and many may have rattled off the list just like you and I. These people are not the other, this isn’t a result of them doing something wrong, it is the result of these cracks in our collective life that we assume we are impervious to. We’re not and these fractures aren’t small, they’re craters. 


Day 48 – Skeleton

Visiting the database as I do regularly I began glancing through the case files at random. Most are sparse at best and only a small fraction have photographs of recognisable faces which is, of course, the sub section I am focusing on.

I do this periodically whenever I have doubts or need to reinvigorate myself. Instead of focusing on the small pool I am working on I began reading from the last forwards. I came across a case that is impossible for me to include in Blink. but just as worthy of attention.

Hopefully, this will also give you all an insight into exactly what we’re dealing with here.

Jane Doe was found on October 31st 1958 as a complete skeleton 10 miles south east of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. There was an estimated interval of 18 months between her death and the discovery of her body. She was hispanic and had light brown hair with an artificial wave. She was wearing a white short sleeved sweater with red capri pants and a white cotton 34C bra with rayon underwear. She wore a 10 carat gold chain around her neck.

Also discovered was a pot of cold cream, white nylon comb, a white powder puff with what now would be known as bronzer on it and a blue nail file. She was five foot tall, estimated 105 pounds and between 11 and 14 years old.

This is all that’s left over 50 years on.


Day 42 – Connections Part 2

The infrequency of my posts over the last few weeks has been ridiculous, but all in all there was little to report and I’d rather write nothing than to become monotonous and tiresome. There is less than three weeks left on the Fundit campaign and we still have the majority to raise yet if every reader gave 5 euro right now we could finish it today. Don’t wait because soon it will be over and those who have already contributed would have done so for nothing .

As promised, today (8 days late I know) I am discussing the Blink. inspired painting I mentioned last time. It’s not what you’re used to from me, I know, I shelved precision and detail for texture and freedom. It took less then a day and honestly it was simply a way for me to break through the artist’s block I had been experiencing. There was no process, no forethought, no sketches. It was simply paint to canvas to deal with the relationships of some of these women. Mothers, daughters and brides. Gleaned from case files, many had been pregnant or given birth, one still wore a wedding ring and many had clearly been victims to the sex trade. So I will let the painting speak for itself and I would love to hear any thoughts you may have as there’s nothing worse than having unsupported thoughts and no dialogue when it comes to this kind of subject matter.
















Day 34 – Connections

I have to recognise the recent infrequency in posting but the details are not too interesting and more importantly quite boring.There is little less than a month left on Fundit and still 85% to raise so don’t wait, it takes less than 2 minutes. I’m currently working on a Blink. inspired painting that I hope to share in the next 24 hours but today  I feel the need to approach one of the central themes of the project – Connections.

I often wonder how many people the average person speaks to in their entire life. There’s no way of knowing and yet it must be somewhere in the many thousands. Your mother, your partner, the woman behind the deli, the bouncer on the door, your children, the people interviewing you for a job, your doctors in the final days. It’s endless. And how many people do these people talk to?

Isn’t it possible that every last one of us is in some distant way connected to any and all of the Jane Does across the world? Less possible, more probable. How many names do we learn in a lifetime? This number is significantly less. And further, How many names do we remember on our deathbed?

Every one of these women was somebody’s daughter, sister, aunt, friend, waitress, maid, patient, boss, partner. Some were even wives and mothers. Somewhere along the way these seemingly significant connections were severed or at least ignored.

So how do we decide which connections  are worth strengthening? Every single relationship starts as a thread in a web, a word, an introduction, but when do we cast these threads in silver, gold, iron and steel? We choose to do this. We choose who enriches our life moments. Blood is liquid and genes are microscopic but those people we decide to cherish beyond all else upon a chance encounter in one moment – this is the real miracle of life. No religion, no destiny, no fate just the miracle of coincidence.

These women once had these connections and maybe some were made of heavier stuff than thread but they still somehow disintegrated. Nothing is unbreakable and death is the greatest hammer. We may never be able to forge the truly permanent connection but it is our choice of who we decide to spend the strengthening moments with that makes all the difference.

I’d like to dedicate this post to my dearest friend whose infinite ability to be my complete opposite has furnished me with some of my happiest memories and who I hope to spend countless life moments with to strengthen our relationship even more.

Day 28 – Blanche Taylor Moore

As promised, this is my portrait of Blanche Taylor Moore. Here’s a step by step process of how it came to be. First I started with sketching directly onto the canvas:


Then I painted a light grey wash over the whole canvas and just began to outline the darker points:

basic shading

Now, more detail is added and something is slowly beginning to emerge:


From here I take the painting in sections  (eyes, mouth, hair, etc.) so that I can see the true portrait developing. First I start with the eyes:




Next, I moved onto the general skin tone, mouth  and neck:


Now it’s time for hair, which I love despite being extremely tedious:



And there you have it, obviously this is a very sparse walk through but it’s nice to track a painting from blank canvas to complete work. Due to lighting and camera issues I hope to have a good quality photo of the complete painting tomorrow.

Remember to like, comment and share as we are now at the end of our fourth week and still have a long way to go on Fundit.