prostitution

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

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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.