Among the artists on display were Gunther Gerzo, Mexico's foremost abstract artist; Venezuelan neo-expressionist artist Oswaldo Vigas; Lorna Marsh, one of the most powerful women in art today; Luis Fernando Uribe, one of the top artists working in the Latin American Magic Realism movement; Hugo Crosthwaite, Baja California's most prominent artist; and Ed Paschke, the internationally renowned painter and graphic artist. Thrillingly, my work was right next to Paschke's; his bullet/lipstick print next to my multimedia work created from New York found objects and china-made plastic army men.
My work, an inverted three-dimensional homage to other war scenes depicted throughout western art history, doesn't doesn't glorify the victorious. Instead, it mirrors the descent into evil by the infusion of a military presence into troubled areas around the world. Simultaneously, this work suggests the imperialistic tendencies that, I believe, provoke our enemy's resentment and violent acts.
Castillo, commenting on his own work in the exhibit, a montage of flag, crystal skull and barbed wire says his work is as much about art as it is about war profiteering. He spoke for a lot of us when he told the Chicago Sun Times (September 9, 2004) that "the history of conflict, aggression, and war shows no human evolution. We have not learned the difference between right and wrong. Nor have we learned from previous powerful leaders, such as Gandhi or Mandela, that violence is no solution for violence."
Others offered similar messages, some specifically condemning our current administration, the war it has imposed on the world and the all too present commercialism. One work, "churned out," by Ralph Michael Brekan, depicts a GI Joe in uniform saluting alongside a real-life Ken doll, referencing mass production, popularity, and brand identity. Another displayed printed currency reminiscent to our dollar bills, but instead, "9/11" graphics replace the dollar amount.
Some of the most moving images were the graphite series by Hugo Crosthwaite. Here, reminiscent of Dali's early work, were neo-surrealistic works combining mythological and religious symbolism with a somber political message. Light and shade engaged in a subtle dance, belying the complexities of war and its nefarious role in all societies. Also striking was a wood-carved missile that Shirley Mann recycled from her Vietnam-era work, and Paul Medina's seductive photomontage on the notion of sacrifice (the image almost balances between a religious feel and that of free falling).
I was also struck by the work of Maya Kulenovic depicting a bloodied camel head, which reminded me of the ram of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac). The camel addresses, she writes, the violent and urgent nature of the conflict in Iraq, in particular the vast differences in culture, religion, history and lifestyle between the Middle East and the West. The head of a slain camel has very different meanings in the two cultures, and the interpretations range from holy sacrifice to unreasonable killing, from mythical to ridiculous, and from ritual to chaotic; yet the underlying sentiment (in my view) is the one of sadness and waste.
Empowering Jewish Progressives
Deconstructing Zell Miller (and Reconstructing Kerry)
A Demonstration in Words
Where Left and Right Collide
Art at War
Jews and Bush
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Belly of the Beast
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Spring/Summer 2004 issue now on sale!
From previous issues:
Carrying Light into Dark Times
What's your point?
On Being a Leftist and a Zionist