2016. Free-hand sculpted glass head, hands and arms, metal, fabric, epoxy resin, gold leaf. 50in H x 24in W x 20in D (127cm x 61cm x 51cm). Photo Credit: Evert Van Laere. Available at Habatat Galleries, Royal Oak MI.
This work is inspired by the story of Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman, a 12 year old Yemeni boy killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2015. The story immediately touched me. Mohammed was interviewed by the Guardian a few years earlier in 2011 after his father and brother were killed in a drone strike. In the interview, Mohammed speaks about the nightmares he had about drones and that he lived in fear of being killed by one. Both drone strikes were considered a success, and all three, Mohammed, his father, and his brother, were categorized as ‘militants’.
This story lead me to think about martyrs, a theme that tends to run through my works. What interests me about the idea is not those who choose martyrdom in order to prove their convictions, but those who are murdered under an oppressive belief structure and how their stories become mythical. Though it is not their deeds, but their deaths that become the focus. The iconic depictions of saints in classical sculpture and paintings are prime examples. These works are steeped in symbolism and create a visual language, historically accurate or not, that has the ability to depict horrific events and transform them into visions of beauty and heroism.
Bright Eyes follows this concept. The features of the figure in the piece are modeled after Mohammed Saleh Qayed Taeiman. The pose of the figure, modeled after wall hanging busts (often found in churches), depicts Mohammed looking to the sky with his hands facing upward. Behind the figure are golden rays falling from the relief of a golden drone referencing the dove (holy spirit) often found in Baroque sculpture showering the figures with its descending light. His gaze appears as though his is lost in prayer, though it can also be perceived as a look of confusion and shock in the realization of his appending death. The figure is clothed in a white robe, a symbol of peace and innocence; beneath the robe is a camouflage undergarment - symbolizing the idea of peace over war. The camouflage shirt has a NIKE logo on the neckpiece, which to me is a symbol of the imperialistic endeavors of capitalism; the slogan ‘ Just Do It’ in Arabic, a word play referencing the shortsighted nature of the current military decision-making. The title of the piece is taken from the Art Garfunkel song of the same name; the lyrics of the song perfectly reflect the nature of the work - haunting prose sung with angelic clarity.
My intent is to recreate the beauty of these historical works while at the same trying to find a way to deal with the world, as it exists today. I want to express the emotion and awe that feel from seeing these virtuosic material manipulations and intertwine that with the frustration and confusion I find in the daily news.