Art

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 http://fundit.ie/project/blink 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.

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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:

sketch

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:

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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:

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

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

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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.

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 19 – Fundit

It’s official. Blink. is now live on Fundit, the crowdfunding website. Here is the link: http://fundit.ie/project/blink

For any of you unfamiliar with the site, creating an account takes less then two minutes and then you can browse through many worthwhile, interesting projects. To achieve our goal, I will need many materials but I have put a reasonable goal on the website so as to strengthen our chances of reaching it.

I really believe in this project and I hope you all do too. I cannot thank you enough for your continued support and interest but now is the time when we must strive even harder to make Blink. a reality. This is an artistic project with a difference. Not only will you be supporting art, this is secondary, but you will truly be giving something back. You will be providing a small group of women with a basic right that no one should be denied – to be remembered.

The rewards for funding are extremely personal and will forever give you a reminder of what you’ve helped to achieve. This should be a collective effort for anyone out there who believes and feels the visceral draw to this that I do. If you believe that these women deserve to be loved, not to be lost and to have a legacy then fund it! And together, we can achieve something far greater than ourselves.

However much you give, you will be a part of Blink., an integral and irreplaceable link in the chain that holds us together as we stand for these women and as we advocate for them when no one else will. But without you, it’s impossible.

So like, share, comment, follow, fund and let’s see what we can create.

http://fundit.ie/project/blink

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

Day 13/14/15 – Surrender

Of course painting is the mission here so that’s what I’ve been concentrating on over the last few days. And now, considering the lack of visual stimulation thus far here I’ve decided to take a small intermission from Blink. to share with you all the painting that really helped me come to this point.

It’s strange how television that isn’t even on the critical level of, let’s say, Breaking Bad or The Wire can inspire something powerful from a place of crippling fragility and insecurity. Around December I began binge watching Law & Order: SVU as I became bed bound for around six weeks and Mariska Hargitay as Det. Olivia Benson reignited a resilience and strength I was all but sure no longer existed in me. This character is perhaps one of the only truly independent, autonomous females in television. She is neither the ball-busting man hater nor the wilting violet waiting to be rescued. She is a fine example of what it is to be a true woman and unfortunately, this breed is rare on our screens.

In reality, Hargitay is no less inspiring. She created the Joyful Heart Foundation, an organisation which advocates for victims of domestic and sexual abuse along with campaigning to reduce, if not end, this kind of violence and works with End The Backlog which aims to eradicate the terrifying number of untested rape kits across the US.

Her earth-splitting beauty was secondary to me, though impossible to ignore. Therefore when I decided I had to paint a portrait of her, instead of choosing a glamourous shot of her looking the conventional idea of beautiful I decided to take a still from the opening episode of SVU Season 15. Here, she has been kidnapped and tortured for four days by a serial rapist referred to as “The Beast.” In the still I chose she has just broken free of her restraints and incapacitated her assailant.

This, for me, was Hargitay at her most beautiful. She was raw, burnt, beaten and fatigued but her face, her eyes, her mouth emanated such intense yet subdued power, a power that stemmed from the most vulnerable of situations that in a way I was a little awe-struck.

It’s the longest I’ve ever spent on a painting, just a little over four weeks of 10 hour days (I have no idea where that time went) but I came out of it with a new perspective on art, beauty and myself. It’s an extremely personal piece that will forever hold a part of my life and as dramatic as it sounds, I’m not sure exactly where I’d be without it.

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Day 10 – Bottom

Toying with the idea of whether or not to disclose this was tricky. But I think it is important and will continue to be important that I continue to display both to you and myself that the struggles I predicted were not away in the air somewhere but painfully real and disturbingly physical.

Last night, as I flicked once more through the case files I was reminded of one of the ages of a face I had found so compelling. She was estimated at between 13 and 19 years old. She died in 1979. Immediately, I scrawled the word ‘ANGER’ next to the summary I had written on her file. Later, I returned and wrote the poem you can see below. However, instead of immediately typing it up as I had planned, I switched off the light and lay in the black.

Sleep would not visit, thoughts squirmed and swirled throughout my mind as the one-eyed kitten chased my shaking feet, breath escaped me in laboured, frantic pants and my very core curled into an inconceivable knot as the tumbleweed of deathly thoughts soared in mass and weight inside my unbearably tight skull. Who would this kitten outlive? Will I wake up if I fall asleep? What is nothing? The kitten has to leave or she will be forever a reminder of those who died before her. I’m going to die. Will I die first?

This continued for maybe an hour. My hands shook so much that I couldn’t even correctly type “How to stop a panic attack” into Google. Eventually, my body which had been functioning on perhaps an average of six hours sleep for the past month gave out and allowed me to slip into the warm embrace of non-thought.

It has not discouraged me in the slightest, my mortal weaknesses are nothing, are ash, in comparison to what these women and  girls went through. If anything, I am more determined, yet equally wary. Most of all I have never been more convinced that your support will be the most important part of this entire project.

Yes, I will need your donations to go ahead but true support, true collective vision will only come by the simplicity of clicking ‘Share.’ Comment, Like and Follow if you believe in Blink. and everything it stands for because the truth? The truth is not only is it not possible to do this alone but I really don’t want to. Share, share, share through social media and in person because any of you reading this cannot tell me that the thought of being truly lost, as these people are, does not terrify you as much as I was last night. But it simply won’t be worth it if this does not reach people, reach right into their centre, as it has mine and hopefully, as it has yours too.

Day 9 – Maddened

Swirls, Rushes and Streams,
Grit, Sludging it’s way
Through the innermost workings.

Skin, so young, so scarred
by the wounds of time
Lost and Unkissed
In the womb of time.

Torn hands and Broken fingers
Weighted, Drowning by the instrument
Unheld and Unhealed.

The so-called glimmering eyes
Fogged and Veiled
for the funeral
Graced in every blink.

Outward symptoms of the inner skull,
The Riddled Body,
Each and Every shivering cell
In conflict,
Uncompromising and Unsoothed

©S.E Honan 2014.