Each victim has a different face.
It’s a small, but vital, detail in ChadMichael Morrisette’s art installation, “No One Is Safe,” a response to Sunday’s deadly mass-shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
Morrisette spent four hours Sunday placing 50 distinct mannequins on the roof of his home near the intersection of Fountain and Fairfax avenues in West Hollywood, a visceral representation of the 50 people, the gunman among them, slain in Orlando.
“I’m not celebrating today. I’m not going to Pride,” Morrisette texted his boyfriend, after waking Sunday morning, his 36th birthday, and watching the reported death toll from the tragedy rise. “Instead, I started working.”
It took the visual artist, who also operates his own business as a brand consultant, four hours to put together the roof display, with the help of a few friends, who Morrisette called “loving enough to come and celebrate that way.”
The process was intense, even beyond the effort needed to get the mannequins in position.
“It was emotional stepping over the bodies, laying them out,” Morrisette said, each time reminded of what those on-site at the crime scene must have experienced.
The faces weren’t the only things that differentiated these mannequins from the rest in Morrisette’s collection.
While the mannequins used in Morrisette’s business are pristine, the models that found their way to his roof were flawed, not yet receiving the care needed to patch their missing eyes or fingers.
“Some have damage you can’t see from a distance. Pulling them from a pile of broken bodies, it began to make it a little bit more real,” Morrisette quietly explained. “It wasn’t beauty being represented. It was shattered and broken.”
This is the power of mannequins, used in retail for more than 100 years, and an idea that Morrisette is deeply familiar with.
“They make people turn their heads. They make people reflect on themselves,” Morrisette said. “Maybe it’s for an item of clothing or maybe it’s for what’s on the roof of my house, but it makes you stop and look.”
Response to the display has been immediate and powerful. Morrisette admits hiding behind his privacy hedge to watch people’s faces as they take in the message being communicated by his work.
“People are moved. They stop and get out of their vehicles. They do U-turns. One person just bowed to me as they walked by, out of respect,” Morrisette said. “Stopped cars sit at the light and have a moment to reflect, and those are the faces I like to watch. That's when I know I've actually caused someone to think about something.”
“No One Is Safe” is not the first display in Morrisette’s yard to garner outside attention. His Halloween decor from the weeks preceding the 2008 presidential election made headlines nationwide thanks to a Sarah Palin effigy hanging from the roof. The display lead to hundreds of angry emails to the city of West Hollywood
Though the display violated no law, Morrisette decided to remove the effigy after meeting with then-West Hollywood Mayor Jeffrey Prang.
Given the location of his home at such a prominent intersection, Morrisette has no plans to relocate the installation in the immediate future.
“It’s a pretty unique space. It’s a pretty unique platform. It has a built-in audience.”
Morrisette will, however, update the installation as needed, vowing to add mannequins as necessary should the Orlando death toll rise.
“This is not just something you hear on the news. This is what 50 bodies, 50 individual faces look like. We are Orlando.”
Follow me on Twitter @midwestspitfire
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