So I've been developing some images around this latest unspeakbale tragedy. This one like no other, and I know I'm not alone, has just infected my soul. I can't understand it, I'm angry as all hell, I can't imagine the grief of the parents, the surviving family members, brothers, sisters, it's too much. I've devoted myself to continue thinking on this and developing images, venting my anger, my shame, my hurt. I want to look away, I can't watch the news of the funerals, I want it to go away, but more than that I want to keep the focus on the insanity within our society, this culture of guns, hate, irresponsibility, every day, even if I only get 12 sets of eyeballs on FB, fuck the news cycle.
Some may think these are in bad taste, too soon, too contrived, hopefully too painfull, too dark. People are grieving and you're making pictures. Well, I've never felt more of a need to try and put thoughts to images.
The first piece, the bus, was done as I was waiting to take my son to the bus on Monday morning. Our bus stop is so great, probably identical to thousands across the country, a line of energetic 6 to 10 year olds, groggy or chatty parents clutching coffee mugs. I love the routine. That morning, Monday, I let my wife take Rowan, I just couldn't bare to stand there as if nothing was wrong. I imagined all those kids in our neighborhood being dead, that bus stop being empty and silent, the parents at home wrapped in a cloak of unimagineable grief, and I imagined the bus as a hearse. Personally I don't think I could go on. How does one do that? I've said this elsewhere in the past few days that I just stare at my eight year old, I imagine those other children, what those bullets did to their soft little bodies, the fear they experienced before they died. These are the places we don't let our minds go to, it's too horrific. I say keep your minds there, I say make this country stare at this long and hard, don't let it get lost, not this time. I am ashamed for my country but thankful fo the like minded friends that share it, but I can't say I'm hopeful. I am so unbelievably angry at the irresponsible gun culture and those that embrace it. Shame.
Day 4-the Monday after the Newtown shootings-back to school.
What we should be burying
In response to the notion of having armed guards at our schools.
I've been trying to refrain from adding my clumsy writing to any of these works, they (should)speak for themselves, but this image requires a bit of a back story. If you continue on then you have my appreciation for taking precious minutes from a busy Christmas Eve with family.
I was at a loss for images that would feel appropriate for Christmas eve and Christmas day. I didn't think it fitting or respectful to make some sort of political statement on these days as the families of victims gather for the holiday. I can't imagine their loss, having bought presents for children now taken from them, and so I'm trying to direct my thoughts to hope and peace.
These tragedies like the Newtown massacre touch us all, we don't know the victims, we can feel their pain, but it's indirect, we can only imagine. But the degrees of separation are probably not that great, and that separation will likely shrink if things don't change.
My good friend and fellow illustrator jonathan, brilliant painter, ex studio mate, had a few years back moved to the quaint town of Camden Maine, one of my new favorite places. His niece (name withheld) was one of the first victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, I believe she was nineteen. I had met her once about five years earlier at Jonathan's house in Cockeysville, MD, at his wedding celebration. She was there with her sister and had expressed great interest in my silly little convertible sports car that I had at the time- and asked to go for a ride. I reluctantly obliged-and so there I was driving around the Maryland countryside with a thirteen year old girl in a little silver sports car, yah I know.
Anyway, I think it made her day, and for that I was happy. Fast forward a few years later when I get an e-mail from Jon a few days after the VTech massacre-I schedule a trip to Maine to see him. His son and my middle son Evan are the same age and used to hang out when they lived in MD.
In the weeks before the trip Jonathan sent me pictures of a project he was working on, a sign of some sort, made of hand cut sheet metal, a marquis, the word HOPE in three foot marquis style letters. I should add that Jonathan is an incredible craftsman, impeccable attention to detail, surpassed perhaps only by his father- who had recently moved to Camden, an ex submarine commander, it was his niece who had died in Virginia.
So the two men created this sign that is mounted on the side of Jonathan's barn. It's fitted with large bulbs, not small twinkly lights but hardwired individual bulbs just like an old movie theatre marquis.
When I got up to Maine and we talked Jonathan described this feeling of hopelessness in the face of such loss, you can't understand it, it's sudden, and he just felt he needed to do something. I think the sign gave those guys something they could see and touch that made sense, doing something that made sense to them.
He described how when he got the call and even well into the long drive south he just kept saying "who?" "who died. what?".
So this is the way I recall seeing that sign. The town is very sleepy in the off season when the crowds on there way to Acadia have subsided. The sign however is on a side street, it's a very quiet scene, just a little illuminated whisper to the heavens-"hope" or maybe "help".
So Merry Christmas to all of you and your loved ones. Let's change this place in 2013.
Day 13-In response to the shooting and killing of firefighters called to a fire then ambushed.