Oil on canvas, 60"x60", 2006
"Lament", one of the paintings from my Meditation on War series, is now in a curated exhibition in Tipton Gallery in Johnson City, Tennessee. The show is "Colors of Aspiration: The Flag in Contemporary Art". As the curator, Karlota Contreras-Koterbay, stated:
"The exhibition features works by contemporary artists who employ the symbolic image of the flag to address social issues and its manipulation as visual dialogue. The American flag has been a potent symbol of patriotism as well as powerful icon for social agency. Artists, most prominently Jasper Johns, have employed the Stars and Stripes in various configurations and materials to pursue artistic ambivalence and encourage discussions in the nature of art. The artists in the exhibition continue on this trajectory."
I painted "Lament" in 2006, when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were getting worse. I was angry about how the administration had led us into two wars, and angry about how so many people callously disregarded the costs. I wanted to make a statement that reminded people that, when you go to war, there is a tremendous cost to pay. People die. People get hurt. Irreplaceable things are destroyed.
But people don't want to think of that at the start of the war. Then, it's parades and speeches and a grand adventure where our boys are going to go kick the other guys' asses and be home in time for dinner. Only it never turns out that way. As our forebears learned in the Revolutionary War, and again in the War of 1812, and the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, and World War 1, and World War 2, and the Korean War, and Vietnam, and any number of "police actions", it never goes as planned, and Johnny doesn't always come marching home again.
We need to be reminded of that anytime our politicians start talking about sending in military forces. It's always, always, going to be worse than they say.