Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The first exhibit of 49 portraits at the Orlando Science Center.

On July 3, 2016 Orlando artists gathered at Falcon Bar to create portraits of the 49 victims of the Pulse tragedy. The goal was to create 49 portraits in one night. Eighteen artists answered the call and the portraits were completed. It was an emotionally charged and creative labor of love. On July 19th, the collection of portraits was exhibited for the first time at the Orlando Science Center during their OneOrlando fundraiser.

I dropped off all the portraits and the hanging hardware. The sketches were simply hung, clothes line style on fishing line with electrical clamps to suspend them. I had prepared labels the evening before, but the museum printed even better labels on vinyl. I got choked up just counting out all the clamps. Precious human life was reduced to the number of clamps needed to showcase the art.

When I arrived at the museum, staff were quickly putting up the name tags. Each person's name was listed along with their age. I have re-written the list of names several times and the shear number is always overwhelming. People would stop in groups to look at the display. Plenty of cell phone photos were taken, One woman walked by and purposefully touched a portrait which must have been someone she knew. Terry, my wife, stopped by to let me know that the portrait exhibit was a good idea. I was at a loss for words so I continued to sketch.

Siclaly M. Santiago-Leon, is the sister of Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon whose life suddenly ended along with his partner Jean Carlos Mendez Perez at Pulse. Siclaly came to the exhibit to see the portrait done by Plineo Pinto of her brother for he first time. I was excited to meet her since she has followed the portrait project from the start. I was about to leave the exhibit to go upstairs and sketch another aspect of the event. I bumped into her on the steps. She held out her hand and said "People call me Lolly." She introduced me to her husband and then they went down to see the exhibit. Her brother's portrait was right on the bottom row next to his partner. Lolly walked up to the portrait and then leaned against her husband as she cried. He held her close. I got choked up as well and wiped my eyes on my sleeve. I looked at Jennine Miller, who had helped coordinate the exhibit, and we both smiled as we fought back the tears.  The couple continued to embrace and I finally realized I should slip away so they could soak up the exhibit in private. This moment made all the hectic planning worth while. Lolly later found me as I was sketching a rainbow colored dinosaur. She hugged me and thanked me for the exhibit and once again I had to wipe away tears. My contribution seems so small compared to the unimaginable loss.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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