Forensic Friday #16: Spouse Vengeance Slaying

Dr. Eleanor McQuillen’s Crime Scene Painting Spouse Vengeance Slaying

Spouse Vengeance Slaying .5

It strikes me that this painting shares the same sensibility as one of my mother’s earliest paintings, A Memorial to Lives Tragically Unrealized. While depicting a different type of crime, the details are more generalized and symbolic in nature. “Spouse vengeance slaying” are the only notes she has provided. Like the Memorial painting, this highlights an unsettling reality my mom confronted in investigating forensic deaths in Vermont —the vast majority of homicides are caused by loved ones, or at least people known by the victim.

I have watched enough CSI to know a crime of passion when I see one. Multiple gunshot wounds to the face express a lot of anger. That the murderer with gun in hand strikes a brazen pose over the victim underscores the personal and unrepentant nature of this crime. The viewer is left to unpack the evidence.

The victim dressed like a groom lays just outside a church. The car in the church parking lot has strings of items dangling off the trunk. Custom suggests these are shoes and/or cans and that a wedding is about to happen or has just occurred. Is the murderess the bride, an ex-wife, or a woman scorned? What role, if any, did the victim play in his own demise? The various interpretations will say more about the viewer, than what the artist reveals.

The important role the viewer plays in bringing meaning to the art is a recurring theme in this blog and a fitting way to close this series of crime scene paintings. Thanks Mom for the paintings and so much more.

Teaching Opportunity

Adopt a detective’s perspective when looking at this painting and use three simple questions to frame a class discussion.

  • What is going on in this picture?
  • What do you see that makes you say that?
  • What more can we find?

Decide if and when to share the title of the painting as it may guide, or overly influence, the way students view the work. You will also need to decide if it is beneficial to share the back story that this is a crime scene painting and is painted by one of the crime scene investigators for her child as a way to share life’s thoughts and lessons.

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