Blink. is a project by young artist Sarah Honan, due to be unveiled in Co. Waterford this weekend. Honan’s work is “inspired by morgue photographs of American Jane Does” - women who died anonymously and were never identified.
Blink. is an extraordinary project that, according to Sarah Honan, just 'happened'.
"One night, I was in the middle of painting a woman on death row in the states. I thought of all of the victims of sexual and physical abuse, of women deemed disposable by society and was looking for something new to paint.
"It was only when I discovered the unidentified persons database that I realised how many faces there were to paint and that one simply wouldn't be enough. One became five and five became ten and ten became twenty,” explains Sarah.
Her work is morbid, yes, but utterly fascinating. The “Jane Does” are forgotten women that Honan wants us to remember. Blink. involved two months of research - looking at Jane Doe photographs from every decade starting at 1950.
Honan explains that many of the women were unusable for portraits. “That was hard - I felt like I was discarding these women over and over again." Honan’s work spans sixty-five years, which she thinks is “crazy”.
Honan blogged her experiences at janedoe.ie which helped her with funding and, “to feel a little bit less lonely.” She said that the experience of creating Blink. was a challenge.
“With something like this, there are no fun bits...I felt tired all the time,” she admitted. Working on the exhibition took about a year, during which time she turned her bedroom into a studio.
“I got a second hand sofa bed which by day was my work couch and by night became a very uncomfortable bed.”
She also felt, as a young artist, a constant fear that her paintings would never be seen, “and that all of this would be for nothing.”
Thankfully this is not the case - Honan’s exhibition in Waterford opens this week. “Excited isn’t the word I’d use,” she says, “and I would understand if people hated the subject...it’s so raw”.
Honan sensitively remarks that she is terrified that people won’t be interested in the art, “because that’s what sent these women to their graves...and I don’t want to contribute to that.”
She wants to give as much as she can to these women and that doesn’t end after the exhibition. She hopes that Blink. will go further and provide a legacy of these Jane Does.
“On the surface, these were just dead, forgotten women in the US, but over the past 12 months I realised how much they had to say about women all over the world and how little we were heard in history, but even more tragically how little we are heard today,” she explains.
She worries about objectification of female bodies and the lack of women in power in the twenty first century, and considers this part of her inspiration and, “a drive to change this.”
“Blink. was and is such an unexpected life event for me. This was never in my path, art was never in my path but... Whenever anyone says 'Do what you can' or 'Do your bit' I suppose this is my answer to that. This is what I did and what I am doing,” reveals Sarah.
Honan takes her life advice from Oprah, and hopes to, “speak for those without voices” for the rest of her days, through art and other ways.
“I’m not inclined to go back to college,” she admits - “but this may change.” Whatever Sarah Honan does, she hopes to fulfull her purpose working for the voiceless - and animals, her other passion in life.
Blink. runs from February 28th-March 15th in Waterford, at an installation between Meetinghouse Lane and O’Connell Street.
For more information on the art, Sarah’s blog is at Janedoe.ie.
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