Ximena McCollum and Beatriz Guerron

Ben and Ximena

Ben and Ximena at IdeaFestival, 2013

We first met Ximena in September 2013. At the time, we were working on another artwork, DISCARDED, at IdeaFestival in Louisville. Ximena was one of the festival goers whom we asked to sit for a portrait on a discarded couch. After chatting with her and photographing her (and her couch companion), we became Facebook friends, the way things tend to go these days…

A year later we launched Love Letter To the World. Ximena was one of the first participants. After getting her tattoo, she sent us this story:

“When I read the first stanza of ‘Love Letta to de Worl’,’ I got a lump in my throat, fighting back tears. I wasn’t fighting them back because I am afraid or ashamed to cry, but because I could not wait to read the next word and did not want to spend time with blurry eyes.

“healing waters” … those words jumped out at me and I thought, “Those words are written for me” … I felt as if I had told Frank X Walker about myself and he wrote those first four sentences for me.

First, I am a lover of nature and my soul is at peace when I am hiking, kayaking or rafting. If I see a body of water, I am immediately drawn to it. I feel it is our duty to protect our water and our planet.

I have always been a vocal advocate for less use of fossil fuels.  Around six years ago, I learned about Fracking. I did as much research as possible and since then I do what I can to educate others about the horrid effects of Fracking on our water sources and on our Earth. I have protested on the White House lawn and attended several meetings to help fight the Bluegrass Pipeline. I write to our Senators and President, and basically do what I can to stand up for our Earth. As I continued to read the poem, it touched me deeply that there is LOVE for this Earth, that it’s not all greed. There are many of us out there that Love This World because we can appreciate ALL she gives us. I wish we could all have access to clean water worldwide. I worry daily that those of us lucky enough to have access to clean water don’t realize just how fragile and volatile our access really is. The water our Earth gives us is healing.

Second, I am lucky enough to have done some amazing worldwide travels. One of the most memorable times in my life was backpacking Machu Picchu. When I was done with the trail, a friend I met on the trip and I went to a natural Hot Spring in Aguascalientes, Peru (a small town at the end of the trail). We soaked in hot springs with amazing huge mountains all around us. I told my new friend that the only thing that could make this experience better was if it started storming. It started storming. My friend, who is from Peru, said that the Gods had heard me. I have never felt so much at peace.

The picture that I am submitting has a story as well. It was taken in Bath Co, Virginia at the Jefferson Pools. The Pools where built in 1761 and are naturally fed by a spring with the constant temp of 98. I go there at least two times a year, one time to meet friends who I have known for more than twenty-five years and the other just to get away from reality and take a mental break. I was there this past weekend and felt it was the perfect setting for my wonderful tattoo.

Ximena McCollum

Ximena McCollum’s “healing waters” (image courtesy of Ximena McCollum)

Thank you all for creating this project and letting all of us, worldwide, join. I hope like crazy that on one of my international travels I will see someone with a tattoo from this project. I will know I have a new friend instantly!

Ximena McCollum”

Five months after launching Love Letter To the World, we created the artwork’s first exhibition. Ximena came to the opening with her mom Beatriz Guerron and snapped Beatriz’ picture in front of the image of her (Ximena’s) tattoo. Ximena told us that after she got her first tattoo ten years ago, Beatriz said she would love one as well. But Beatriz’ skin is too delicate at this age, so in a way, this photograph ties her to a tattoo with meaning.

Beatriz Guerron, Ximena's mom

Beatriz Guerron, Ximena’s mom, in front of the photograph if Ximena’s tattoo, currently on exhibit at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky (image courtesy of Ximena McCollum)