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March 11 workshop will prepare dresses for symposium on violence against women

Imagine a field of pink crosses - more than 400 to be exact. Hung from each cross a dress flutters in the wind as testimony to the life of the girl or woman whose presence no longer fills its curves and folds.



Pink crosses, dresses and a shrine stand as memorials to the more than 400 women and girls killed in the borderlands. (Photo courtesy of Irene Simmons)


That field of spirits will become a reality on the corner of University Avenue and Espina Street at New Mexico State University on March 29 as NMSU presents its second annual J. Paul Taylor Symposium on Social Justice with this year's theme, Justice for Women, focusing a spotlight on the unsolved killings of nearly 400 women and girls across the borderland.

The planting of the crosses, some made by area students at NMSU's Aqui se Puede program, will take place before the opening of the symposium. At 8 p.m. following the first night's discussion by relatives of the slain women in Mexico, a candlelight vigil will take place highlighted by a reading of the names of the dead and disappeared.

At least one of the mothers will be presented with a dress made in honor of her daughter.

To prepare for that symposium and display, NMSU, the Dona Ana Branch Culinary Program, the Alma d' Arte Charter School, Amigos de las Mujeres de Juarez and Amnesty International have joined to sponsor a workshop on March 11 for people in El Paso, Las Cruces and Juarez who wish to decorate a dress or dresses in memory of one or more of the slain women.

The workshop/exhibit titled "Re-Dressing Injustice" is the brainchild of Arizona State University artist Irene Simmons, who said she has been overwhelmed by the responses of different communities to the public art display.

"Many of the dresses are simple. Some are little girls' dresses. But the decorations are so poignant," Simmons said. "Some girls decorated and donated their prom dresses. One woman donated her wedding gown and then finished it with black gloves. Some are provocative, a statement that no matter how she dresses a woman does not deserve to be murdered."

Those who cannot attend the workshop but who wish to donate dresses for the workshop can drop them off by March 10 at these university sites: Breland Hall, Room 138, Fridays from 8-12 and 1-5; at Garcia Annex, Room 138, Monday through Friday during business hours; and at Science Hall, Room 286, Monday through Friday during business hours. Decorated dresses can also be dropped off at those locations.

While the dresses then become part of the NMSU art display, they eventually will become part of a traveling art exhibit. Some will be auctioned off to raise money for the nonprofits working on justice issues.

The workshop will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 11 at the Alma D'Arte Charter School at Court Youth Center at 402 West Court.

Those who wish to submit a dress should simply plan on transforming an existing dress into a piece of memorial or protest art. One can use paints, beads, flowers, ribbons, charms, etc. Attach materials by sewing, gluing, safety pinning or other secure means. Contributors are asked to pin a small label to the upper back of a dress with their names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and affiliations. It should indicate whether or not the dress can be auctioned off to raise money for the nonprofits supporting justice for women.

For more information, call Jacqueline Porter, (505) 646-5282, at or visit the Web site: www.nmsu.edu/~artsci/jpt_symp/

To view pictures of dresses made at other workshops visit: http://www.west.asu.edu/borderjustice/Images/JuarezArtGallery/FrameSet.htm

Sponsors for the symposium and related activities are: NMSU President Michael V. Martin, Lannan Foundation, New Mexico Humanities Council, National Endowment for the Humanities, NMSU College of Arts and Sciences, Amigos de las Mujeres de Juarez, Amnesty International, V-Day, Alma D'Arte, Frontera Focus Women's Foundation, Peace and Justice Center, Dona Ana Branch Culinary Program, NMSU WAVE and NMSU Center for Latin American and Border Studies.