March 15, 2010

Eleven Bullets of the Civil War

Above is a detail from my latest figurative mosaic, Eleven Bullets of the Civil War, featured at right. It is so named for the actual civil war bullets incorporated into the mosaic. I am usually not quite so literal in my titles for art work but this one just seemed to write itself. The bullets were found on the trip home from Maryland last summer and the figure was modeled that same summer. For some months now they sat in the studio unassembled while I ruminated over them.
It takes me a while to compose the elements of a mosaic - although these days I am moving slower than usual. The placement of parts in a mosaic of found objects such as this one can change the message depending upon where they go and what they are next to. While composing this mosaic I kept this in mind, asking questions all the during the slow assembly. Should the bullets be arranged in a row to evoke the straight and narrow way of the military? Or should they be scattered to indicate the chaos of war? I decided to use them in provocative, ironic ways, as parts of architecture, as a pillow and foot rest. They surround and embellish a neolithic spear head (given to me as a gift one year ago). After arranging them all to my satisfaction, I had one spare bullet that didn’t seem to fit anywhere. I almost put it aside when I finally realized that all the other bullets were on their sides, flush with the picture plane. This last bullet I cemented to the picture in such a way as to project outward towards the viewer. How awful and confrontational! The last bullet would point at the viewer’s head should the picture be hung at eye level. Should someone ask why I changed the orientation of that last bullet I would be obliged to come up with an answer. My answer would go something like this:
The last bullet punctures the illusion of peace in war time. It makes us see that which we wish not to see but which happens nevertheless. The last bullet shatters the notion that America at war does not in some way involve us all and that, aware of it or not, it is a part of us. It is that lingering, nagging sadness in the back of the mind as we go about our daily business, made manifest by a direct shot of confrontation.

It is difficult to be aware of the extent of what happens in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unlike Vietnam, which was brought into livingrooms in graphic horror, the current wars are filtered somewhat my media coverage, I believe. Hence it is a new kind of civil war.

1 comment:

FRESCA said...

Thank you for taking the time to share that. Your well written, honest and obviously heart (or tooth!) felt account was alternately quite interesting, strangely reassuring — and surprisingly enlightening to me. Being both fairly new to, as well as on the fringes of, the medium, the thought of entering a piece this year did fleetingly cross my mind — and was quickly abandoned without further action. However, I did attend the exhibit (although I missed the jury panel discussion) and was frankly curious about the jury process at this level of work. While I can foresee the difficulties and possible objections to such, I do support your idea of providing at least some minimal feedback to the entering artists as I feel this might present a unique opportunity for self-examination and personal analysis of ones own work in re the final exhibit as a whole and as individual parts of that whole.