Artists create 58 portraits of Vegas shooting victims

Michelle L. Price
Associated Press

Las Vegas – Portraits of the 58 people killed in last year’s mass shooting in Las Vegas went on display Monday after artists from around the world donated their time to memorialize the victims.

“I want people to know these individuals,” Mary Jo von Tillow said at the display’s opening in Las Vegas. “It puts their face out there, and people get to know who the 58 were.”

The Cameron Park, California, resident spoke in front of the wall of portraits that included a painting of her husband, Kurt von Tillow, shown smiling in a tuxedo with an American flag behind him.

It was a fitting tribute to her patriotic husband, one of the victims of the Oct. 1 shooting, who always wore the stars and stripes and was nicknamed “Captain America,” she said.

The paintings, drawings and digital art will be displayed at a county building in Las Vegas until Oct. 19, when they are to be given to the victims’ families.

The portraits come in various sizes and shapes. Some are in color. Others are black and white. Some just show a smiling face, while others place their subject at the beach or in the woods.

That speaks to the individual personalities of the 58 people killed that night, artist and project organizer Ellen Abramo said.

Abramo and her cousin started the project after participating in a similar project commemorating the 49 victims of the 2016 mass shooting at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub.

Abramo said she hopes the portraits of those killed at the Las Vegas Strip country music festival are meaningful gifts that show the families who have lost loved ones that there are people out there who care about what they went through.

“Our hearts are with them, and we hurt for them. We wish that we could bring their loved ones back, and this is the best thing that we can do with our talents,” she said.

Abramo, of Nazarath, Pennsylvania, drew a portrait of Rhonda LeRocque, a 42-year-old from Tewksbury, Massachusetts, who was at the country music festival with her husband. She was drawn to the fellow mother who, like her, lived on the East Coast, loved to cook and was described as very gentle, sweet and loving.

“When I read all the wonderful things that her family and friends said about her, I just couldn’t help but think that I hope that I will be as good of a mother and wife that people will say those things about me,” Abramo said.

To find other contributors, Abramo put out a call to artists asking if they wanted to participate and asked them to submit two examples of past portraits they had done in order to ensure they could capture a good likeness.

One of those who responded was Amanda Roth, a 33-year-old art teacher from Redondo Beach, California, who was at the concert with friends with the gunfire broke out.

Signing onto the project to paint a picture of Jordan Mclldoon, a 23-year-old mechanic’s apprentice from Maple Ridge, British Columbia, helped her work through her own experience at the shooting, Roth said.

“I came home, tried to sleep and tried to forget about it,” she said. “I didn’t quite process it until I started painting Jordan.”

She played country music while she worked and was able to speak to Mclldoon’s mother to learn more about him and look at family photos.

“Jordan became this kind of guardian angel for me. He kind of guided me through this and helped heal me a little bit more,” Roth said.

When she finished, a picture of her work was posted on the Facebook page for the portraits project.

Roth said Mclldoon’s mother reached out to her online and told her she liked the painting. She’s still waiting to see the mother’s reaction in person at a special reception in October for artists and family members of the victims.

“There’s something about having complete strangers reach out and be a part of this,” Roth said. “Hopefully, they can see these paintings and smile.”