SVU

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.

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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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