painting

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 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 188 – January 30th, 1994

Unlike Jane Doe 1991, Jane Doe 1994 did not die under suspicious circumstances. Therefore, her case file is sparse yet leaves much to ponder. She was estimated to be between 60 and 75 years old, though judging by her photograph I would lean towards the latter.

Her face is striking and the contortion of her mouth is so that it appears as if she’s smiling, or even laughing. Just as striking is her black and gold patterned jumper. This was an interesting detail for me because hardly any of the morgue photos show the deceased’s clothing. Despite her senior age her skin is tight on her face and her cheeks are round yet prominent.

Jane Doe died in Philadelphia. Found inside an abandoned building, she was known to neighbours by sight only. They even conjectured that she may have been an alcoholic, or mentally ill, or both as they often saw her walking, bottle in hand, talking to herself.

She wore layers of clothing, presumably to escape the cold. She was found wearing 3 jumpers, a jacket, a hat, a scarf, a nightdress, trousers, stockings, two pairs of socks and steel toe cap boots. The boots surprised me, her photo is so ladylike, the friend or neighbour of my grandmother perhaps. How cold must she have been to wear all those clothes?

Questions swirl in an unsteady stream around my mind and I’m caught between trying to piece together the story of these women’s lives and recoiling from imagining for them a lie.

I suppose that’s where art comes in. I know that Jane Doe 1994 could be any of us and I know that people should recognise that but I don’t want to dishonour their lives by writing for them a story that never was. Truth is the central tenet of Blink. There are sketch artists out there who can make these women look like they may have in life, there are writers and directors who could re-imagine these women’s lives in far more convincing ways than I can. The best way I feel I can honour them is by giving them the time and the attention of a portrait. The images, many un-lifelike  are the only true life evidence we possess to represent them. I can only hope that these portraits do not isolate them further but it is my only response for what I see before me.

 

Illustration conceived while painting Jane Doe January 30th, 1994

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 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 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.