Women of Juárez Alive Through Art
Artists from all over the world participated in a London exhibition to honor the slain women of Juárez.
Entitled 400 Women, the exhibition features portraits of 200 women from Juárez who have been murdered or gone missing. Each artist created the portrait after being given basic information about a particular woman.
Mexican artist Andres Basurto was assigned Melissa Gonzalez Luna, who disappeared three years ago at the age of sixteen. With only a small photograph to work from, he decided to bring out her “positive energy” through her eyes and smile. “I wouldn’t consider myself a sentimental artist, but I did sometimes find myself in tears,” Basurto told the BBC.
While some artists had no photographs, other artists had more to work with. However, knowing more details possibly made it even more heart-wrenching. Artist Monica Alcanzar learned the distrubing details behind the death of her assigned woman, 19 year-old Maria Eugenia Mendoza Arias. “She was dumped in the middle of the garbage. Her skull was actually broken. Someone ran over her in a car after raping her really violently.” She decided to represent Mendoza Arias through a gold pendant. “I crushed the pendant because of that, trying to evoke this combination of something that is fragile, that has been broken, abused, and then suspended for people to see.”
The project was created by British artist Tamsyn Challenger, who traveled to Mexico in 2006 and met with some of the victims’ families. “Just as I was leaving [one mother] on our final meeting, she pushed postcards of her daughter into my hands.” Challenger recalls. “The face looking up at me was such a poverty of an image. It had been reproduced from a snapshot and the face was blurred. I think I just wanted to bring that face back again and that’s really what started 400 Women in my mind.”
While this exhibition was inspired by Ciudad Juárez in particular, where hundreds of women have gone missing or been murdered since the mid 1990s, Challenger wants this to speak for the plight of women worldwide. “The situation in Juárez is an open wound but 1 in 4 women in [the U.K.] and in the US suffer domestic violence and my hope is that this project will raise awareness for gender violence across the globe.”
The exhibition took place during the month of November, but you can view some of the portraits in this slideshow.