This is a group of 49 artists making portraits to honor the Pulse nightclub victims and as gifts to their families.
I know Mia Merlin’s sister Shana Merlin, as we’re both improv actors in Austin, TX and have known each other for many years. When Mia was looking for artists, Shana alerted me to the project. It felt like something I couldn’t say no to, something I was very much compelled to do. A lot of my work these days is in scenic and graphic design. It’s not often that I get an opportunity to paint a portrait. Portraits are tricky, because you’re capturing so much more than what is immediately visible. A spirit, a subtle expression, an essence. Something intangible. Something deeper.
On the morning when the news of the Orlando shooting broke out, I remember having a lot of trouble. It was hard to get out of bed, to leave the house. It was hard to even understand what had happened. Why it had happened. The loss of life was so massive and unfair and disgustingly cruel – fueled by ignorance and fear. I tried to see the bright spots of support within it – the long lines of blood donors, the tributes that rang out from every corner of the world, the kind words on every platform. The support within the sorrow was staggering. I want to be another tiny pillar of that support. I want to join in all these voices that say – “We see you. We hear you. We love you. We’re with you.”
Amanda Alvear, your life was beautiful and important. Your amazing courage, loyalty, and heart will not be forgotten. I’m only a few years older than you, and I’ve done my best to portray the intangible: the depth within you.
Kaci Beeler is a visual artist, actor, improviser, playwright, and designer based out of Austin, Texas.