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This artwork was created for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) as a tribute to the 49 lives lost at the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. It was created for the 20th annual HRC National Dinner which took place on September 10, 2016, in Washington, DC. HRC is America’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, which strives to end discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and realize a world that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
Titled ‘Eternal Pulse’, this artwork honors the precious lives that were lost in the tragedy, and lets their memory, their story and their love live on forever. Pulse was not just a gay nightclub, it was a place where people could feel welcome and be free to be themselves. It was a place to find community and safety. It didn’t matter who you were, at Pulse you felt loved. The essence of Pulse and the safespace that it provided was shattered by an unimaginable mass shooting and terrorist attack on June 12, 2016. From this tragedy, 49 lives were taken, 68 were injured, and countless lives were affected. This artwork honors the beautiful lives that were lost that night, and keeps their memory alive forever. It also radiates the message that “Love is love” and “We will not let hate win”.
I was first contacted via email by an HRC event representative after they saw my artwork online. We corresponded over the course of a week to discuss their needs and ideas for the piece. After our discussions, I began sketching some initial designs that met their requests. I created designs that represented eternity and love, including images of hearts, wings and infinity symbols. I next decided to focus on incorporating spiral shapes, which are a universal symbol of unity, rebirth and continuity. The final design of the artwork will be inspired by these initial sketches.
The design that I developed captures the essential aspects of this project: love, unity, connection and eternal life of the souls that were lost. The endless nature of the spiral represents the immortality of the soul, and its concentric rings symbolize the continuous expansion towards the infinite. It is a symbol of the life force energy of the 49 souls and their journey into the unknown.
Each concentric ring radiates outward, illustrating the infinite ripples that these precious lives have created across space and time, and the lasting impression that they have made. Their lives have deeply touched many, and they will be remembered, felt and loved forever.
The multi-colored palette celebrates the colorful lives of the 49 individuals lost, of the Pulse community, and of the global community as a whole. It recognizes the diverse spectrum of humankind, as well as our oneness, and reminds us that no matter how different we may seem, we are all part of one human race, and we are all equal and deserving of love.
In the design process I developed two other alternative designs that also embodied the aspects of love + unity, and memorialized the lives that were lost. I sketched these designs with ink pen on paper and then painted them with watercolor paints to create a rough draft design for each selection. The spiral design was the final decision due to its elevating nature and the symbolism of connection, unity and expansion.
Once the final design was decided, I began working on the canvas piece. I first sketched the basic design onto the surface of the canvas to provide myself with a rough outline to follow. In the creation process I apply multiple layers of paint and natural materials, so it is important to have a visual guide to follow throughout it.
Next, I added layers of color to create the background of the piece, using eco-conscious water soluble oil paints. Color selection is an important aspect of the artwork because it is highly representational and can deeply affect the way we feel by evoking specific moods, emotions and memories.
The multi-colored palette celebrates the colorful lives of the individuals lost. It also represents the rainbow pride flag with colors that reflect the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community and the beautiful spectrum of all of humankind.
Rainbows bring feelings of hope and positivity, with the promise of beauty and sunshine after a storm. It is my intention for this artwork to inspire peace and healing in all who grieve their loved ones lost in the Pulse tragedy, and to encourage hope for a brighter future for all of the LGBTQ+ community, and for a better society and human race as a whole.
For this piece, I also decided to use a ‘splatter painting’ technique, which I don’t often do. I wanted to express the vibrant, energetic spirits of those 49 souls, as well as capture the invigorating atmosphere of the lively nightclub community that they were a part of. I alternated layers of color with layers of metallic paint to create a luminous sheen in the final artwork. This results in a dynamic finish that transforms with the viewing angle and with the changing of the light. This luminescent effect will invigorate the artwork as well as the spirits of those who view it.
After the paint was completely dry, I began adding natural materials to the surface. First I properly cleaned the materials and then adhered them to the surface with a heavy duty non-toxic water based glue.
I chose to use shells and sand collected from various beaches just outside of the Orlando area, to bring the peaceful, soothing properties of the ocean into the piece and to personalize the artwork by using local natural materials. There is a calming + renewing energy found in the sea, in its soothing waves and cycles of the tides. This healing energy brings peace, serenity and rejuvenation to all who view the artwork.
The shells were placed close together in a way that represents interconnection, unity and community. Each shell is unique and a little bit different from the next, representing not only the 49 souls, but also the whole of humankind. Touching one another, they are forever connected in the infinite spiral of life.
‘Eternal Pulse’ is a tribute to the fallen souls of the Pulse tragedy, and allows their hearts to continue beating on eternally. It is a touching representation of the life, love and beauty that they shared with this world during their time on Earth, which will continually be felt even after they are gone. It incorporates designs that symbolize unity and continuity, reminding us that we are connected to each other infinitely, and that these 49 souls will never be forgotten. The colors celebrate the diversity of these individuals and of all humankind. The rainbow hues bring healing + hope for a brighter future, where every human being is free to live their truth in a more understanding world full of love, unity, acceptance, hope, courage and strength.
In May of 2017, the owners of Pulse nightclub established the onePULSE Foundation. This fund is intended to support a memorial that opens hearts, a museum that opens minds, educational programs that open eyes and legacy scholarships that open doors. The interim memorial is located at the site of the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and is a sanctuary of quiet reflection and love dedicated to honoring the lives lost in the tragedy. A permanent national memorial and museum is planned to be established in 2022 to serve as a sanctuary of healing and a beacon of hope, and to educate and encourage thoughtful discussion and inspire positive change by memorializing the lives taken, the lives saved and all the lives affected by the Pulse nightclub tragedy of June 12, 2016 – ensuring Pulse’s legacy of love lives on forever.