Gallery of crime victims considered


January 7, 2007

An artist who painted portraits of 50 slain and missing women from Vancouver's downtown east side says she'd like to do the same for women killed in the Edmonton area.

Artist Betty Kovacic painted portraits of alleged Robert Pickton victims - including this one of Mona Lee Wilson - is considering doing the same for women killed in Edmonton area.

But first, she needs time to recover emotionally.

"This body of work was by far the hardest I have ever done," Betty Kovacic, 51, told the Sun yesterday from her home in Prince George, B.C.

"I grieved over each and every woman as I painted them. There was so much pain, loss, vulnerability and a sense of being disconnected. The worst part was the eyes and mouth."

Kovacic, known as one of B.C.'s most socially conscious visual artists, based the portraits on a 2002 list of women who were missing or known to have died violently.

Dozens of women, most of them drug-addicted prostitutes, have disappeared from Vancouver's downtown east side over the past 25 years. Robert Pickton, accused in 26 killings, is set to go on trial in connection with six of the deaths.

In the Edmonton area, 28 women living high-risk lifestyles have been slain since 1983, said Kate Quinn, executive director of the Prostitution Awareness and Action Foundation. Of those cases, 21 are unsolved, she said.

Kovacic's portraits will be featured at a Prince George art gallery in September.

Quinn praised the "vibrant and haunting" images.

"She seemed to reflect the souls and sorrow with dignity," Quinn said, adding she hopes the art show is brought to Edmonton.

"And if she has the emotional energy to paint some of the (Edmonton-area) women, that would really be a gift to the community and the grieving families."

Pat Reilly, whose daughter Kelly Dawn Reilly was found dead in a gravel pit northwest of Edmonton on Jan. 27, 2001, wonders if the portraits would spur tips to police. "Somebody somewhere knows something."

Courtesy of
The Edmonton Sun

Perspective on Pickton Art show based on infamous murders

Jan 05, 2007

Portraits of 27 murdered women and scenes of the infamous Pickton pig farm where their remains were discovered are the basis for a provocative new solo show by White Rock artist Zoe Pawlak, The Profession of Hurt, Jan 10-Feb. 4 at Interurban Gallery, 1 E. Hastings, Vancouver.

Pawlak’s Vancouver debut is designed to open dialogue about the tragedy and measure our own reactions, not only to it, but to the media coverage surrounding it.

The Pickton farm landscape has been re-imagined and semi-abstracted by Pawlak into a series of different perspectives which contrast light and dark areas and juxtapose expansive spaces with impressions of confusion and claustrophobia.

In a related series, newspaper photos of the victims have been transformed into portraits, while retaining the grid format and context of the news media at the same time.

The opening will be Thursday, Jan. 11, 6-9 p.m.; an artist’s talk with Pawlak will be held Saturday, Jan. 13, at 3 p.m.

Gallery hours are Wednesday to Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

Zoe Pawlak will showcase her paintings based on the Pickton murder victims at Vancouver’s Interurban Gallery Jan. 10-Feb. 4.

The Peace Arch News

Prince George artist paints B.C.'s murdered and missing women

CP Wire
Friday, Jan 05, 2007

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. (CP) _ A Prince George artist has painted all of the missing and murdered women from the streets of Vancouver's Downtown East Side and the North's so-called Highway of Tears.

Betty Kovacic, known as one of the province's most socially conscious visual artists, is building an art show around the women who have been lost from mainstream society.

She has painted 50 portraits and is co-ordinating a piece of music for each, as well as corresponding selections of poetry and prose.

The portraits represent the 2002 list of those who were missing or were already confirmed to have died violently in British Columbia's grimy backstreets and lonely highways.

Dozens of women, most of them prostitutes battling drug addictions, have disappeared from Vancouver's drug-ridden Downtown Eastside over the last 25 years. Robert William Pickton is charged with 26 counts of first-degree murder in some of the disappearances and will be tried later this month on six counts.

Kovacic is in the process of framing her works.

At least nine and perhaps as many as 30 women have also vanished or been killed while hitchhiking on Highway 16 in northern British Columbia.

Historically, says Kovacic, only the wealthy or important had their portraits.

``People who are poor or have little perceived social standing such has those involved in survival sex have little voice,'' she says.

``Society has taken away their power and their voice. I am trying to instil in them the importance society has taken away.

``I grieved for each and every woman as I painted them, and not lightly either.''

Kovacic has not attempted to take the trouble from their eyes, the scars from their skin. But she has figuratively moved them into better light, conceptually sat them for a proper portrait session even though she was only working from a photo or two of each victim.

In some cases there are images in the background, in others a flourish of abstract colours.

Each one serves to present the woman in the portrait as a real person with a history, a pool of feelings, an active dream life instead of a dispassionate mug shot.

``One of the human traits we share is our dreams,'' Kovacic said. ``A six-year-old girl does not walk up to her mom and say `mom, when I grow up I want to be addicted to drugs and sell my body for survival sex.'''

The Two Rivers Art Gallery in Prince George will debut the massive exhibit in September 2007, and there are hopes of a provincial tour after that.

(Prince George Citizen)

Copyright © 2007 The Canadian Press

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