Miscellaneous

Identified.

Jane Doe found on November 10th 1979 was identified was identified as Tammy Jo Alexander in January 2015.

Tammy Jo died from 2 gunshot wounds, one to the head and one to the back, when she was 16 years old. A missing persons report was filed for Tammy in August 2014. She was identified using DNA taken from her half-sister, Pamela Dyson, in 2014. Although Tammy died in New York, she was originally from Florida where she lived with her mother.

We can only hope that more Jane Does are identified, that closure may be brought to their cases and if not, than at least attention should be brought to the issues that affected their lives.

There are many reports and articles online where you can find out more concerning the life and death of Tammy Jo Alexander:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Tammy_Alexander#Identification 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/tammy-jo-alexander-1979-n-y-murder-victim-idd-as-long-missing-fla-teen/

http://www.people.com/article/police-id-teenage-girl-missing-35-years-tammy-jo-alexander

http://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2015/01/30/tammy-jo-alexander-pamela-dyson-cali-missing-girl-murder/22598871/

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Day 375 – The Message

Sitting in a cold, cramped, warmly lit room gazing at a year of my life in paint and canvas and quiet faces is, well, causing palpitations. Touch-ups and varnishing aside, I’m finished. And yet, it is now that the work begins. Funny, seeing as all I would like in this moment is to construct a fort and spend an unseemly amount of time curled in a cat-like ball sleeping.

One year and 10 days later I have a series of paintings that have changed me in such a visceral way that I can’t remember exactly who I was before the path of my life collided irrevocably and at times dangerously with the lives of these women. This is all for them and at times we would fight like old friends. I’m ashamed to say that there have been times where I have felt bitter, bewildered and bat-shit crazy for starting what I started. In 14 days, you too will be able to see what has forced me into a hermitage and made me seriously question my own sanity on numerous occasions. Before being unveiled here on this website dedicated to them, they will be shown for 2 weeks in my hometown in the window of a vacant building. Every passerby of the city centre premise will peripherally or intentionally see these women and hopefully take note of the far broader issue they represent.

Fear is not an adequate word. Fear is manageable, fear of embarrassment, fear of distaste, fear of disinterest – all of these things I could handle. My fear is that while I have been locked up forming relationships with women who I will never know I am unable to see whether I have in fact done what I set out to do. Justice to these women, their lives, their deaths, their unattainable stories. If I have failed them, I have failed. They are the beginning and they are the end and everything else is unimportant. When I began, there were 2,007 US Jane Doe’s, today there are 2,137. This isn’t going away and it’s getting worse.

I was asked if Blink. had a single most important message what would it be. What is the point? What purpose do these women play and what is the story these anonymous women have to tell? I had to think. In a year of thousands of words and thousands of paint strokes this project, like the body of work itself, grew in volume, in sheer weight of meaning and in stories to be told. So to hone this ever-expanding blade back down to it’s sharpest point took time and reflection.

Each of these 18 Jane Doe’s represent the millions, even billions, of other women throughout history and across the world who have been stripped of their identity, stripped of their potential and stripped of their value.

Much of the developed world objectifies and diminishes a woman’s worth to her dress size and much of the developing world ignores that women are their single greatest untapped resource. Global gender inequality is the single greatest civil rights issue of this century.

There are over 4.4 million female sex slaves worldwide – that is almost the entire population of the Republic of Ireland as slaves. Jane Doe found on 09.11.1998 represents these women.

Over 130 million women alive today are survivors of female genital mutilation or female genital cutting usually between infancy and the age of 15 – this is the population of France and the United Kingdom combined. By destroying the female sexual organs it is believed these girls will be easier to control. Jane Doe found on 10.11.1979 represents these women and girls.

Today, 2.6 billion women live in countries where rape within marriage is not a crime – this is over twice the population of North and South America combined. This is not to mention the billions of women living in both developed and developing countries where rape, in general, is given the blind eye. Jane Doe found on 07.12.1991 represents these women.

700 million women alive today were married as children (under 18) and over a third of these women were married before the age of 15 – this is close to the entire population of Europe. Jane Doe found on the 10.8.1982 represents these women  and girls.

Half the Sky Movement reports that globally, women aged between 15 and 45 are more likely to die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents and war combined. Every single Jane Doe represents these women.

We are still living in a time when whatever way you look at it 50% of the world’s population are not equal based on their chromosomal make-up. Each and every Jane Doe in the world represents these women.

This is the quintessential message of Blink .and I only hope you join me in spreading this message as far as it can possibly reach with the hope that even one woman’s life may be changed for the better by the sacrifice of these disposable women.

Sources: Half the Sky Movement , UN Women

Day 205 – Restless

Seeing as Blink. is my first real artistic endeavour a studio space never really factored into the equation. Plus running the menagerie that is my home takes up another large portion of my time. So when I say I’m living with my work, I really am.

For the first few weeks it was fine, working on one canvas at a time. Then the other 24 came. And then I sketched each face onto each canvas using charcoal pencil for dark spots so that once paint was applied the sketch would peep through better. Then I hung them all around the room, the size of which meant that these black and white morgue images wallpapered my living space. This was when I realised how daunting my task was.

But because I find them beautiful and not morbid as others did I continued living this way for the past few months. When friends would visit I was met with shock and discomfort, and understandably so. I shifted from sadness to familiarity with these women long ago and I forget that I too experienced that very same guttural response. Last week I removed them from the walls, just for a change.

The only word I can use to describe it is restlessness. Constantly, I feel the need to adjust my patterns, move my paint stand, manoeuvre the room into a different configuration. I just can’t settle. Every so often I must try, to the best of my ability, defamiliarise myself with the work so that I may approach each piece with an alternative eye. As I’ve mentioned before, with Blink. I’m either in or out. I’m either intensely and solely engaged with the work or I put it to one side and welcome life back in again. Currently, my family and I are preparing for a landmark occasion and I simply know that I cannot give these women the attention and solemnity that they are owed while my mind is elsewhere. Of course this approach has it’s downsides, the work has slowed down immensely. I feel guilty, like I’m shirking my responsibilities and yet I’m sure that it’s the right decision in the long run.

 

Day 175 – December 7th, 1991

Yes, it’s been a long time and yes, there are reasons but they’re uninteresting and irrelevant so let’s move on.

Jane Doe was found on the above date days after she was murdered. Unlike her fellow victims in Blink. her murderer was found and convicted of sexual battery. He was acquitted of her homicide. His name is Joseph Algernon Rolle Jr.

I have spent the past week painting her portrait. Her face, aged between 25 and 40 years old, is slightly perfect. The proportions, the bone structure, the lips – if it wasn’t for the grainy black and white photograph and the tight, papery quality of her skin I would swear she was just having a beauty nap. This is so difficult to write about, even more difficult to paint. I’ve had a crisis of faith of sorts in the past weeks, I lost something and it was with this and another portrait I completed this week that I forced myself to reclaim my passion.

There was no moment of clarity, no spark of inspiration I simply had to sit down and doggedly immerse myself in the work once again. I discovered that balance is impossible in Blink. I cannot delegate between the joys of daily life, of summer and then return to the immense pressure I have laid on myself with this endeavour. I am in or I am out. I’m painting 13 hours a day or 0 hours. There is no middle ground. Unhealthy, perhaps but unfortunately I have yet to find an alternative.

Every time I added another layer of paint to this canvas, every time I screwed up a section and had to restart, every time I wanted to give up I just kept repeating, ‘This woman was murdered.’ Not only was she murdered but no one has lain claim to her for almost 23 years.

Her case file tells us she had given birth to at least one child. How old is he/she? Did they know their mother? Are they still alive or do they have their own place in the unidentified persons database? The questions are endless and yet the facts surrounding her death seem quite clear.

Days after she was raped and murdered, a hiker came across her semi-naked body in the woods in Lake County, Florida. He first thought she was a mannequin. It’s possible that her brown hair with blonde tips camouflaged with the stack of tree limbs she had been temporarily buried beneath. The defence alleged the crime scene had been botched; incompetent investigators brushed debris out her multiple stab wounds after initially concluding that she’d been killed (and covered?) by a bear. Later however, after fully uncovering the posed corpse they discovered a glass bottle protruding from her neck, framed by strangulation marks. A stolen Land Rover was found nearby, the detectives working the case questioned it’s owner but later ruled him out.

Then something happened. Or more correctly, nothing happened for almost 4 years. The case lay dormant, along with Jane Doe’s identity.

February 1995 – a computer matches Joseph A. Rolle’s DNA with semen left on the victim. And suddenly Florida, and some argue, the nation was transported into the modern age of criminal justice.

Like many sex offenders, one victim was never going to be enough for Rolle. And Jane Doe probably wasn’t his first. With a charming demeanour, Rolle found no trouble in attracting women. But he had a reputation for diverging the anger of apparent ill’s in his life onto prostitutes. According to police, when things went wrong at home he picked up working girls and raped them. Of course, the case is the same now as it was then, the word of a street girl is never good enough. Perhaps if someone had listened, Jane Doe could have been spared the brutalisation she endured. In 1992, someone did listen but not to a prostitute. Holding a hacksaw to her throat to enforce compliance Rolle violently raped a woman in a friend’s home.

He was sentenced to a meagre 18 months in a state penitentiary. He served 6 months and was released to choke and forcibly rape another woman four times. He lured her with the promise of crack cocaine which indicates she may have been a sex worker and so instead of being arrested for sexual battery he was held on the lesser charge of violating his probation. A pattern has seemed to emerge in the convict’s ferocious violence. One victim reported a hacksaw being held at her throat whilst the other was choked. Meanwhile, Jane Doe gets the full package – she was strangled and stabbed in the neck with a glass bottle. Rolle had a record of other crimes ranging from drunk driving to burglary.

After his previous conviction Rolle’s genetic marker is submitted to what was then a state-wide computer database and hey presto the police have a match.

Rolle became one of the first people in the nation to be accused and convicted by a centralised DNA databank. The trial was predictable. The defence argued against the prosecution’s standard of evidence and investigation while the state attorney’s office needed little once the integrity of DNA evidence was explained to a jury who then would have known little on the subject.

The jury came back with a guilty verdict on the sexual battery but felt they could not be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that he went on to kill the victim.

Thankfully, justice would have it’s day. Unlike so many sex crimes both then and today Rolle was not under sentenced. Judge G. Richard Singeltary went above and beyond the sentencing guidelines for Rolle’s crime which was set between 12 and 40 years.

Joseph Algernon Rolle Jr. was sentenced to life in prison where he still resides.

Once again, just as outlined in my previous post, the only reason I was able to recover this information was because the perpetrator’s identity was discovered and made public. Otherwise Jane Doe’s case would only be the sum of the parts of her case file. Justice was served and yet I can’t help feeling unsatisfied. There was no family, no friends sitting on the sidelines to support and remember their loved one while her alleged killer sat comfortably with his mother and sister at his back. The survivor of the first attack for which he was convicted sat solemnly at the sentencing hearing and gave a defiant fist pump to know that she could finally move on with her life.

I hope she thought of herself as sitting in hypothetical solidarity with Jane Doe and all of Rolle’s past and potential future victims too. Jane Doe, in unknowingly sacrificing her life ensured that no more women would fall prey to the barbarity of Rolle.

An earring found with the body of Jane Doe.

 

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.

JaneDoe.jpeg

Day 20/21/22 – Origins

We’ve now reached the 3 week marker. Good progress has been made on http://fundit.ie/project/blink but we still have a very long way to go. So for fear of sounding repetitive I will say this in the preface rather than the conclusion. Please like, comment, share and if  you can, fund. Whether it’s €1 or €10 the intent is the same and I will be just as grateful. I would also love to keep hearing any and all thoughts you have via comment or through email which you can find at the bottom of the page.

Now, given the milestones achieved over the last 7 days I thought it may be about time to talk about how Blink. came to be.

After finishing ‘Surrender,’ the portrait of Mariska Hargitay, I learned the importance of being passionate about a subject in order to maintain energy throughout the process. For some reason I began searching female death row inmates in the US because as we all know for a female to be sentenced to death is extremely rare. The percentage of women on death row is usually only about 1%.

Upon reading all their case files  I saved a few that had intrigued me. After further research I began work on a woman named Blanche Taylor Moore. She is still awaiting the death penalty after over 20 years of incarceration. She has just turned 81 years old. After her second husband was hospitalised and found to have ingested large amounts of arsenic police exhumed the bodies of Moore’s former husband, boyfriend, mother-in-law and father.

All died of arsenic related symptoms. She was convicted of the boyfriend’s death and sentenced to death. Blanche Taylor Moore was daughter to a Baptist minister who was also a womanizer and an alcoholic. As a teenager he forced her into prostitution to pay his gambling debts.

There is no excuse for murder but I had to wonder if Moore ever had a chance.  So I painted her portrait from a very grainy black and white photograph taken on the day of her sentencing. Hopefully, I will upload those pictures in the next few days.

From here I began researching the female sex trade and human trafficking. And it was then that I thought of Jane Does. Anyone who watches crime shows is very familiar with the term. But on television they always find an identity for their nameless victim. However, I knew this was not the case in the real world. After countless searches I found what I was looking for but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted it anymore. Despite my palpable discomfort I had no choice. As much graphic footage we see on CSI or SVU or Hannibal there is something painfully different about looking at real faces, real articles of clothing, real tattoos.

And so, after filing an advanced search which would ensure I would only see cases with recognisable faces I clicked my way through 196 cases. Most only had sketches, some computer generated images and the others had photos. Now there’s 25 chosen on a combination of high quality photographs, substantial case files and mainly an instant gut reaction I had to them.

25 seems so little in comparison to over 2,000 cases but originally I thought I might paint 1. Then it became 10, then 12 but then there were just some I couldn’t leave go. And now we’re here.

Day 17 – Growth

In fact, I really didn’t plan on posting today but sometimes when an idea takes you it should be noted. Huge progress was made on the first portrait and as it crept closer to midnight, a daily deadline I imposed on myself to avoid sleepless nights and unproductive mornings, a thought came to me that I hadn’t quite imagined possible before.

This woman is beautiful. Not in the ‘You can tell she was pretty when she was alive’ kind of beautiful but truly, in this moment, captivating. And then I realised that I had felt this way about many of the 25. Trust me, many, if not most, of the faces would never ‘grace’ the pages of Vogue or Elle but regardless they stirred something more palpable and more visceral in me than I have ever really felt.

Having only ever lost a few people I cannot say that I have spent longer then perhaps two minutes looking at the face of death. Well, look how that has changed. You always here about artists trying to find the beauty in death and trying to capture how death could possibly be conveyed as beautiful. This is absurd. There is no beauty in the one thing we all have in common, there is no beauty in a terrifying totality that ends stories and cracks the earth beneath those left behind. I simply won’t accept this.

However, when I speak about the beauty of these deathly faces I am acknowledging the beauty of life. Because unlike the airbrushed faces we see on our screens and in our magazines these women in death somehow express more life. Confusing, I know but bear with me. When I began this project I contended that they’re stories were locked in others minds when, in reality, they’re locked in these faces.

In each freckle, wrinkle, bag, tattoo, scar, clipped nail lies the key to a memory, the life that has been lost. To wear our lives, to have our life written on our body, if that’s not beauty I don’t know what is. So when I said that the Mariska Hargitay portrait altered my perception of beauty it was no lie, but this, one portrait of 25, has irrevocably transformed it. Then why obsess day in and day out about youth when age, when storytelling, when depth is where beauty resides.

I know that all of you will just have to take my word for it but hopefully, some day in the near future you will see what I see.

©S.E Honan