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Diane Kahlo's 'Wall of Memories'

Dittmar Gallery’s Kahlo exhibit commemorate the missing and murdered women of Juarez

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November 1, 2012 | by Judy Moore

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Artist Diane Kahlo’s interactive fall exhibition is a compelling memorial to the more than 1,000 missing and murdered women of Cuidad Juarez -- a Mexican city that lies on the Rio Grande and across the border from El Paso, Texas. It also is a grim reminder of the epidemic of violence against women and girls in Juarez that began in 1993 and continues today.

Kahlo is a distant relative of renowned 20th-century painter Frida Kahlo. Her grandfather was a cousin of Wilhelm Kahlo, Frida’s father.

Diane Kahlo, “Wall of Memories: Las Desaparecidas de Cuidad Juarez” (“The Missing Women of Juarez”) opens Nov. 2 and runs through Dec. 9, at the Dittmar Memorial Gallery, Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, Evanston campus. The exhibition and an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, featuring a talk by the artist and a musical performance by the group Hurakan, are free and open to the public.

Also free and open to the public are several other events at Dittmar Gallery held in conjunction with the “Wall of Memories” exhibition, including an 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1 Vigil for Border Victims in collaboration with Lambda Theta Alpha that begins outside of the University’s Technological Institute, 2145 Sheridan Road and proceeds to Dittmar for an 8:30 p.m. Altar for Day of the Dead celebration; and a 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27 screening of Ursula Berman’s 1999 video “Performing the Border,” which is set in Ciudad Juarez and explores the “sexualization” of the border region. The 42-minute screening will be followed by a panel discussion.

The Kahlo exhibition includes row after row of 150-plus small framed portraits of the victims of the “feminicide” -- a term the National Association for Women describes as “the mass murder of women simply because they are women.“ Sculptures in the show include two decorative six-foot-long coffins and a wall installation of small sequined skulls symbolizing the “unknown girls” whose bodies have been found but not yet identified. Kahlo’s portraits and icons remember the women as they once were -- young, carefree and alive. Also on display are bright pink crosses entwined with artificial floral vines that have become a symbol of the tragic Juarez killings.

The exhibition includes a video projection that represents The Virgin of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico and a cultural symbol for Mexican identity. The audio loop accompanying the video was composed and produced by Juan Carlos Buenos of “Grupo Hurakan” specifically for the installation. The music explores and celebrates the indigenous roots of Mexico. In another video, a young woman describes the history of feminicide and reads a poem about its victims by an artist/activist who herself became a victim last December.

The Dittmar exhibition is sponsored in part by Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences departments of Spanish and Portuguese, Latin American and Caribbean studies, art history, gender and sexuality studies, and Latina and Latino studies.

“Because the feminicide addresses the intersection of gender, race, class and economic status, as well as political and economic dialogue about globalization, human and sex trafficking and drug violence, the exhibition serves as a vehicle to create interdisciplinary dialogue,” said Kahlo.

Kahlo is also the author of “Wall of Memories,” an art book about the victims of the Juarez killings. Kahlo will donate all proceeds from the sale of her book ($29.95 soft cover; $35.95 hard cover) to agencies working to prevent violence against women. For more about Kahlo, her work and her book, visit www.cultureondemand.com/artists/view-single.php?id=dianekahlo.

For more on the exhibition and related events, call the Dittmar Gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, email dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or visit www.dittmar.northwestern.edu

Topics: Campus Life