Portrait of Silvia Elena
July 24, 2008, 3:01 am
Filed under: Art, Collaborative, Installation, Painting/Drawing

Swoon & Tennessee Jane Watson
May 30th – July 12th, 2008
Honey Space

148 11th Ave, New York, NY

Swoon and Tennesse Jane Watson put this show together to raise awareness for femicide in Juarez, Mexico. Silvia Elena was one the first of hundreds of young, poor women to be sexually assaulted and brutally murdered on their way home from long days working in local factories. The murderers are suspected to be prominent, wealthy men, and the police are suspected of aiding them by being indifferent to the murders or by torturing innocent people until they confess to the crime.

In the main room of the gallery, a shrine was set up on a table, with newspaper clippings and pictures of some of the girls on the wall behind it. To see the main installation, a visitor would have to climb down a ladder through a hole in the floor into a sub-level of the the building. There, among dirt and cinder blocks, one could fine Swoon’s ornately detailed paper cutout portrait of Silvia Elena, lit by candles and adorned with donations. The portrait was accompanied by the voice of her mother, speaking in Spanish, and by the sound of dirt being shoveled off a grave. The sound of the dirt was especially eerie: alone in the sub-level of the building, it sounded like somebody trying to dig their way in or out of the room.

Having to enter the exhibition by climbing into a hole in the ground put the viewer outside of their comfort zone. The sub-level area outlined the isolation of these girl’s deaths, left alone in the desert. Some girls were not found for years; many were never found at all. The mother’s voice conveys the pain that these murders cause not only to the girls, but to their families, who are powerless to seek justice.


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