This painting was created after the first “Dessert Storm” it was an uneasy time and full of questions of right and wrong in the United States and across the globe. The three men are linked arm and arm, showing unity. Unity of confusion, destination, and uncertainty. It is unclear whether they are walking towards the war or coming back from it. The sun may be setting or rising. They are wearing brown suits and brown ties, that symbolize every man. Brown was a color suit that could be afforded by the lower working class in the 1930s. Much like a car painted in white is cheaper than any other color even though the vehicle is the same. Their fists are clenched. “White knuckling it” show distress and anxiety. They are connected with a long blunt rod that pierces their checks. The idea of a blunt rod going through the skin is painful. For it to be self-inflected shows the severity of the act. The implied agony of walking together with the pole through their cheeks, pulling with each step and stumble, adjustment of the jaw, or trying to talk can only be seen when thought about. Their tongues are swollen and extruding out. They cannot communicate clearly. At best with primal grunts and groans. They are forced to learn each other’s steps, movement, and rhythm and be patient with each other. Try to change direction is hard and they have to move toward the agreed destination even if it is wrong. The water the ocean they are walking through has riptides and they can not see the bottom. Slowly navigating each step heavily walking through the sand in clothes that get drenched while the weather changes from the hot sun beating down on them to torrential rain. There are no women in the picture. In the media, at the time it was men making the decisions for the United States. The idea that this is “man’s work” to stop the bad guys is questioned. Juxtaposed with the emotional sensitivity that it takes to be connected and agree to inflict so much pain on themselves for the “greater good”. It was a very awkward time that launched a series of even more awkward wars, lies, truths, sadness, and death.
This piece is my inner reaction trying to capture the uncertainty and the feeling of that event but realizes that painting can represent the confusion and sorrow of any war, natural disaster, or life situation where the “right” thing to do is unsure.
The painting was inspired by a tiny sculpture called “Mourners” Mexico, Nayarit, 200 BC-AD 500. I saw it at Los Angeles County Art Museum. It caught my eye from peripheral vision. That is quite poor, I can barely see besides me with my glasses blocking most of it.