It's been said that good art draws an emotional response. Duval Street gallery owners Kristen and Chris Carroll are hoping that rings true with their latest piece.
The couple -- the women were married in the gay-marriage friendly state of New Hampshire -- are showing a piece of mixed media art at their Wet Paint gallery that reflects the struggles of gay people across the globe.
It's a painting of two female figures holding hands in a sea of newspaper articles about the modern struggle for equality.
There's a picture of the fence where Matthew Shepard was tortured and killed in 1998. There's a picture of two suspected gay men hanging from gallows in Iraq. There are articles about the gay marriage issue as well as rainbow flag-themed advertisements.
It can be a haunting as well as uplifting piece depending on where an eye travels. But it's one of the last pictures to be added to the $15,000 canvas that the couple hopes will bring a strong response from Key West residents.
The couple have been following the mysterious death of Key West resident Jonathan Alvarado who prosecutors say was killed on Grinnell Street on Oct. 28. The openly gay La Trattoria Oceanside server was found with his Fantasy Fest wire angel wings wrapped around his neck. He was also bludgeoned in the head, according to a Monroe County medical examiner's autopsy report.
Police charged former Key West bouncer Peter Erik Hedvall with first-degree murder. He has not been charged with a hate crime.
The artists felt that Alvarado should be added to the piece.
"We looked at each other and said, 'Oh my God, we should include Jonathan,'" Kristen said. "He waited on us at the restaurant and we live on Grinnell Street. It was so shocking to us."
Kristen and Carroll said they have no idea why Jonathan died.
"Honestly, we don't know what happened, but it appears to us that [his sexual preference] played a role in what happened," Chris said. "We certainly didn't do this as a statement in that way. It's really to honor him. We debated whether or not to include his picture and in the end we thought it was a good way to honor his life."
By coincidence, Chris drew a memorial picture for Bill Lay, owner of the La Trattoria Oceanside, that hangs in his New Town restaurant. The owner likes to put pictures of his staff in black frames on the wall. He did the same with Alvarado, but his photo is in a white frame next to Chris' drawing of a tree whose branches spell Jonathan.
"It's very personal to us and many of our guests," Lay said. "It may not seem like much to some people, but it means a lot to us. Customers come in and ask to see it all the time. It's really the perfect piece of art and it's very cool the way she did it."
Kristen and Chris hope their new piece has the same impression on their customers as the picture in La Trattoria Oceanside has had on Lay's customers.
"It's our way of saying that he's not forgotten," Lay said. "Definitely not forgotten."
Hedvall remains in Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island in lieu of $501,000 bail. His trial date has not yet been set. If convicted he faces life in prison.