Murdered victims painted in "The Forgotten" need respect

This story is Part Three in a series on the cancellation of Pamela Masik’s “The Forgotten” portrait collection from the UBC Museum of Anthropology, originally scheduled to run February 15 – March 21, 2011. Read Part One: When an outsider paints the DTES missing women and Part Two: With "The Forgotten," MOA sought to open conversation about murdered and missing women.

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“Artwork for me should address the foundation of your argument,” Larocque explains. “What are you trying to say? You have to have some form of analysis, some kind of reason for creating the artwork.”

“She actually reinforces stereotypes. If she’s painting from mugshots, and these are the only pictures that she’s painting from, then she’s reinforcing their criminality, she’s reinforcing their murdered state. She’s a reporter, reporting on their deaths, not on the socio-economic issues that are bringing them there.”

The issue of permissions and respect are important when it comes to murdered victims, Larocque adds. “Murdered individuals are the most vulnerable when it comes to facial images, and what people do with their facial images, because they can’t defend themselves.”

“It’s like they’re public property. You’re pathologizing their identity as being murdered people – they’re not even victims, they’re just things that you [the artist] can appropriate and do things with. She had one woman with her head on the ground with flowers growing out of it… to me, it just has to be more humane when it comes to murdered individuals. And this is beyond race, because she painted aboriginal and non-aboriginal women.”

In response to accusations of censorship against the MOA for their decision, Larocque sighs. “Putting it that way, you’re taking away the focus from what this whole discussion is about – which is murdered women,” she explains. “I don’t think there can be censorship to the extent that artists feel they can’t do anything. But we’re talking about how respectfully you treat murdered victims. When I think about indignity to the dead body, this is part of it.”
I simply could not be so foolish to believe that creating a body of work (portraits of the women who went missing and were murdered) with one perspective – a beautiful light, would be as deeply moving as confronting the truth. (This meant the violence, posing the questions of disposability, and not having a voice). This is why when you see staples in the mouth of Dorothy it shouts at the viewer…. And why would I slash some of the portraits? I brought them to life on the canvas, I took away their life, then sewed them up or left an indication of the violence that cannot be denied. This is the truth. This happened. -  Pamela Masik’s blog post “The Conference Was Hijacked,” August 14, 2010


Note: Pamela Masik declined a request for an interview for this article. Excerpts from her blog were quoted from www.pamelamasik.com/Blog.cfm (some content has since been removed). To learn more about The Forgotten project, see www.theforgotten.ca.

To find out more about the Women’s Memorial March, see http://womensmemorialmarch.wordpress.com.

Read Part One: When an Outsider Paints the DTES Missing Women
Read Part Two: Consultation with Community Comes First

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