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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 http://fundit.ie/project/blink .

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.

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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.

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 8 – Progress

Upon completion of 25 detailed sketches I opened my laptop to write, instead I fell asleep with a one-eyed kitten licking my face at 3am. I began yesterday with 5 and remembering the vow I made on day 7 managed to generate enough strength to work continuously through the day and night.

The deterioration of energy through the pages from morning to early hours is obvious, even to the visually challenged feline. My question now is how next to proceed. I don’t have the funds to order canvas yet but somehow I still don’t feel ready for that step. However, my application to FundIt is now submitted so hopefully any of you out there who have faith in the exposition will stay tuned over the next couple of weeks as we endeavour together to memorialise these women.

So, over the next fortnight  I aim to study these faces, these files until my mind will allow no more and my eyes fail. To maintain passion, to maintain will and empathy as I wait to begin the real challenge is my goal. Hopefully, with all your help we can make this goal a reality and I will truly need all the support you can offer. We, a tiny group of individuals connected through cyber space, can furnish a tiny group of nameless, forgotten women with recognition, appreciation, love and most importantly a legacy that no one else is willing to provide.

But to do this will mean to encourage others, far and wide, to donate whatever little they can, no amount is too big or too small and each single euro is a step closer to remembering the people that everyone else has abandoned. I believe we can do this but it’s success solely depends on the efforts of the collective not the individual.