Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Human Cost of War

Afghan Bridge © Grace Graupe-Pillard 2005

Grace Graupe-Pillard's artwork deals with something we keep forgetting to remember, that is the human cost of war. Here in the US we've seen very few images of the tens of thousands of people way off in those distant lands that our government has killed, and is still killing on our behalf. It's a painful, ugly truth, yet it's a truth we must own if we are to stop the killing.

We have few visual reminders of it, just as we're not permitted to see the coffins of returning dead American soldiers. We've been separated from the distasteful death and destruction our tax dollars are wreaking upon others. Our powerful leaders learned from past mistakes, (particularly Vietnam) to stifle and control the US media. We, most obligingly, don't really want to see the painful images we know are out there. Yet being the blind, impotent funders of this war-without-end is torturing our souls. The carefully nurtured disconnect Americans feel is dangerous to our future, because we aren't keeping track of what our government is up to in these other countries, and because it dehumanizes us.

Refuges III © Grace Graupe-Pillard 2003

Graupe-Pillard says of her of paintings,
In a world where terrorism, ethnic cleansing, and cultural upheaval have dominated the news headlines, these paintings focus on the devastating effect of war and its impact on the civilian population. Entitled DISPLACED, this series correlates the displacement of civilians in war-torn countries with a visual disintegration of form, evident in both the creative process and in the final painted product. In each painting, the chaos of cultural disintegration is symbolized by the fragmentation of the picture plane. With repeated editing, I appropriate images from journalistic sources, blowing apart the reality of the photograph so that the final result is distilled and disintegrated from its original context, and reduced into unpredictably flatly colored eccentric shapes further emphasizing the fragmentation of form and removal from its original source. The process of translating these manipulated images into oil paintings involves a change in scale, color and texture, portraying a seductive beauty that reflects the political "sanitization" of the horrors of war.

23rd Street Park © Grace Graupe-Pillard

We're told they're other, "they're evil", they want to destroy our freedoms", "they hate our way of life", etc. This is all designed to separate us from the things we all have in common with "our enemy", such as family, work, our homes, celebrations with friends, love, children, school, and so on. All humans share these things, and much more. Those things that divide us are small. The men and women who seem determined to drive us into endless self-fulfilling war are using the most basic of military tools to play up the minute differences between us and non-Americans, "divide and conquer".

...a strategy of gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into chunks that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. In reality, it often refers to a strategy where small power groups are prevented from linking up and becoming more powerful, since it is difficult to break up existing power structures. The phrase comes from the Latin divide et impera, which translates to "divide and rule". Effective use of this technique allows those with little real power to control those who collectively have a lot of power (or would have much more power, were they able to unite).

None of this "game" is a game to those poor souls caught in the middle, the so-called "collateral damage". This is the essential tragedy consistently being ignored by the media, the governmental leaders, and worst of all by you and me. All of this wrangling over land, natural resources, and political control, is brought down upon the heads of those unfortunate enough to live where in a spot that the greedy have targeted for themselves.

Brooklyn Bridge © Grace Graupe-Pillard

In 2003, shortly after the onset of the Iraq War, Grace Graupe-Pillard began working on a series of photographs entitled INTERVENTIONS which she says focus,
... on the horror and human cost of wars being fought in far-off places. These photographs depict images of soldiers, car-bombings, ruins, explosions, and refugees, which are digitally embedded into the familiar streets and parks of New York City, Baltimore and the New Jersey wetlands. Using the computer and digital filters, the implanted imagery often borders on the abstract, with heightened color and kaleidoscopic patterns portraying the ordinariness of our everyday reality blown apart. INTERVENTIONS attempts to make visually evident the ongoing tragic repercussions of war in our own backyard, as well as the equally powerful manipulation of the electorate through the politics of fear.

More of Grace Graupe-Pillard's paintings and photographs

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

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art lover

7:27 AM  

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