The Art of Doing

One Designer Fights Destruction with Creativity, Hate with Love

How to respond to tragedy?

Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal. He was 22 years old. I can't stop crying. —J.K. Rowling
[Victim of Orlando nightclub shooting] Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal. He was 22 years old. I can’t stop crying. —J.K. Rowling
In the wake of a mass murder, the images of the victims flicker and fade while the images of the killer fix, as if in some chemical bath, leaving a permanent stain on society. We watch helplessly as the killer’s self-propaganda videos and fire-arm poses outpace and eventually obscure the images of the victims in gentler moments of beauty, joy and love.

Visual artist and designer Rafael Esquer and his studio mates at Alfalfa Studio, want to invert this equation.

Esquer, who has created memorable work including branding projects for the NBA and the city of New York and ethereal albums covers for Bjork, looked for a way to change what he calls “the national script” that follows these tragedies. “I thought, I can go to the streets and march angrily, or I can respond the way I know how, creatively,” says Esquer. “We know a lot about the bad guys and close to nothing about the people we should know.”

His response: OrlandoIsLove.

The project is a digital memorial of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting, portraits and messages, similar in ethos to the grand Memorial AIDS quilt (that with its nearly 50,000 panels is now the world’s largest piece of community folk art).

With his project underway, already Esquer has received portraits and messages from the global creative community. “Anyone can participate,” says Esquer. “Read about the victims, and when something about their lives grabs your attention, compels you, make a portrait and upload it to the site.”

Humans have many responses to tragedy. Here’s what Martin Luther King Jr., believed: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”


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