idea for these paintings came from reading news stories that described
the injuries—including a high occurrence of head injuries—suffered
by US military personnel serving in Iraq. Lives being destroyed for an
ill-planned, ill-equipped war, conceived as an improbable fantasy and
built on lies, is a sad and bitter reality. This series of paintings is
a way to honor those who have suffered injury or death—both American
soldiers and Iraqi citizens—in the fiasco that is the Iraq War.
A few of the paintings contain place names and dates. While these are
arbitrary, they are intended to suggest a specific event.
Other paintings have inscriptions that mention Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh, semi-divine
hero king of one of the oldest works of world literature (ca. 2000 BCE),
ruled in the ancient city of Uruk near modern-day Warka in southern Iraq.
In the story he performs a series of heroic deeds with his friend, Enkidu.
When Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh falls into despair and becomes obsessed with
his own mortality. Gilgamesh represents for me the antiquity of Iraq.
I brought his name into the paintings as a criticism of the arrogant ignorance
of some of the war planners. After the invasion of Baghdad in the spring
of 2003, when the looting of the Iraqi
National Museum occurred, US Secy. of Defense Rumsfeld commented: “My
goodness, were there that many vases? Is it possible that there were that
many vases in the whole country?”
The human need to understand death that runs through the Epic of Gilgamesh
informs the underlying mood of these paintings. Could the lessons of history
and art deter the destructive and misguided policies of those who hold
power? Those policies have led to more deaths than we should be able to