Artist Diane Kahlo and her version of Lady of Guadalupe
By Jennifer Deligne
Artist Diane Kahlo made a visit to the Human Rights Institute at Kean University on Oct. 29 to talk about her current exhibit, “Las Desaparecidas de Cuidad Juárez,” (The Disappeared Women of Juárez) which will be on display until Jan. 15.
The artist shared her thoughts on the subject of femicide, the killing of women due to their gender, and made clear the reasons behind doing this movement and the symbols used to portray the beauty found in the ugliness done to the women of Juárez.
Kahlo is deeply interested in the issues surrounding violence against women, not only in Mexico, but globally. The unsolved cases in Mexico surrounding the murders of over 630 women captured Kahlo’s heart and she wanted to commemorate the young girls.
She believed that making a memorial for the disappeared girls and women of Juárez would bring light to a subject that needed attention and preserve the memory of the girls, both identified and unidentified.
“People would go to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. just touch the names of the people,” said Kahlo. “It made me curious as to how we can memorialize women.”
She did just that with her “Wall of Memories,” a piece including over one-hundred small frames with painted portraits of the girls that went missing.
Gold leaves were scattered in this piece, which are associated with saints. Kahlo said she incorporated these details to give these girls the heightened sense of importance they deserved.
The embroidered skulls in the exhibition had the idea of Mexico’s Dias De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday, in which people try to remember and memorialize the life that once was. Kahlo would pin the embellishments on to the Styrofoam on her own, taking 10-11 hours for each one, on her most skilled days.
“I want it to be about labor,” said Kahlo.
The girls of Juárez were sometimes kidnapped after working late hours at their jobs. She wanted this display to be laborious, like the nights of the girls.
The Lady of Guadalupe painting embraces the beauty of all the girls in one figure. It is filled with symbolism and can be a welcoming image for those in its presence, especially if they lost a daughter.
“I wanted to use the eyes from one girl and the nose from another girl. The shape of another girls head,” said Kahlo.
“My fantasy is for every mother to see her daughter in the face.”
A touching subject as this one can bring grief and tears to many and Kahlo was no exception.
“There would be times I’d say ‘I can’t do it,’ but the mothers of these girls don’t get to say that, so I had to go on,” she said.
Kahlo acknowledges that both innocent males and females are assaulted and murdered globally. But she focused on the females because they are dying simply because of their gender.
Kahlo shows the love and compassion she invested in her artwork through her visit. She was the voice and beauty for the girls that could no longer speak for themselves.