Artist Remembering Child Victims Through Paintings

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EAST ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)-- This is National Crime Victims' Rights Week, typically marked by candle light vigils.

But this year, the local Crime Victims` Advocacy Center has added something else; something they hope will give death by gun violence a face.

Artist Christine Ilewski of Alton has created 16 portraits of local children killed by someone with a gun.

They are based on family photos she first turns into paintings for the victims` families to keep, and then copies onto decorative handkerchiefs that are now part of an art exhibit in the Vaughn Cultural Center at the Urban League of Metro St. Louis.

"I know this may sound strange, but I talk to them when I am doing them,"  Ilewski said.  "I will usually have a little dialogue with them and say, `let`s do this for your mom and dad,` and I swear sometimes they paint themselves. They just come to life on the paper. It is really powerful."

Ilewski chose handkerchiefs for the medium on which the portraits are displayed to symbolize grief.

"Usually on the news you may see the crime scene tape or the families crying  but there is not always that follow up about this was the story behind that person," said Jessica Meyers, Director of Advocacy Service for the Crime Victim Advocacy Center. "We want people to realize that it`s not just a number or a statistic. Everyone of these victims has a face."

Ilewski, whose initial inspiration was the murder of a family friend, says she has been silent on the subject for too long.

"I am just one person and it is a big issue so I don`t have any expectations of this changing the world, but if it makes one family happy that they have another way to remember that child then I have done something," Ilewski said.

Ilewski has already signed up several other artists to help expand the project, perhaps even to include someday the children lost at Newtown.

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