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Painted James Foley portrait to be hung at end of February

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james-foley-paintingMore than six months after Marquette mourned the death of alumnus James Foley, the university commissioned a painting depicting the photojournalist to hang somewhere on campus.

Painter Mary Pimmel-Freeman is painting the portrait of Foley, who was murdered by the Islamic State in August.

Pimmel-Freeman started the painting in the Raynor Memorial Library lobby during Mission Week 2015, which was from Feb. 1 to 6. The painting is scheduled to be completed at the end of February.

“James Foley embodied the Marquette mission in his passion for communicating the truth and speaking up for the voiceless,” Pimmel-Freeman said in an email. “He was an obvious choice for the subject of my commissioned painting.”

Students, faculty and others gathered in Raynor to watch the painting unfold and remember Foley’s life.

“I had been most nervous about completing James’ face,” Pimmel-Freeman said in an email. “Without capturing his facial features and facial expression correctly, the painting wouldn’t be a success. I was very grateful when that piece of the painting came together while I was painting at Marquette so students, faculty and staff could begin connecting with the painting.”

A Marquette committee will meet to decide where to hang the portrait. Some of the options are the Alumni Memorial Union, the communications building and the library. The painting will be blessed and then hung.

Pimmel-Freeman experienced some challenges during the painting process.

“Currently my least favorite part is the overall background,” Pimmel-Freeman said in an email. “I’ve been struggling with fading the colors enough so that it doesn’t overwhelm James’s face and body. But I do love a piece of the background that pays tribute to James’ praying of the rosary.”

Conversations about displaying Pimmel-Freeman’s paintings began in spring 2015 between her and Campus Ministry.

“(Campus Ministry) hoped it would be possible to commission me to paint a portrait on Marquette’s campus as part of Mission Week 2015,” Pimmel-Freeman said.

This won’t be Pimmel-Freeman’s first painting that’s displayed at Marquette. She previously had prints of Salvadoran Jesuit martyrs hung at the university to commemorate the 25th anniversary of their deaths.

“My most memorable paintings are of the six Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador and their two women companions,” Pimmel-Freeman said. “I painted (those) while in college.”

Those paintings and others are what Pimmel-Freeman said keeps her interested in continuing her painting career.

“I love the creative process of painting, of bringing to life something I’ve imagined,” she said. “I love playing with colors and the paints and my brushes. I love how absorbing painting can be and how I can get lost in it for hours at a time. I also really enjoy connecting painting with my passion for social justice and doing portraits of people I admire who I feel have a message to share.”

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