British artist Tamsyn Challenger organized a project called "400 Women," on display now in London, after traveling to Mexico in 2006 and being moved by stories of hundreds of women’s violent murders in the border city of Juarez.
Challenger sent 200 artists the names, photos and life stories of women who’d been caught in the cross hairs of the drug wars, and asked artists to create portraits for each woman or girl killed. Sometimes they only had a young woman’s name to inspire their art work, sometimes a photo and the grisly details of her death. Many women are brutally killed after enduring beatings and sexual violence, their bodies discarded carelessly around town, their deaths rarely investigated or avenged.
The portraits are beautiful–to an unknowing viewer some might be confused for a celebration of Mexico’s young women–except for the captions that accompany each, with the names and details of the death of each woman: Karina C. Ramos Gonzalez, killed when she was 22, Ada Marlene Cardenas, killed at 16, Claudia Flores Javier, killed at 15, and Karen Olivia Avila Herrera, who was murdered at 14, are just a few.
"I see the project as a singular art work with many voices," Challenger told the BBC. "It works as a mass protest."
And that’s what love is, even at its most painful: remembering those who have been killed unjustly–with love, with compassion, and with honesty.
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