So my experience at Brickbottom Open Studios was, in a word, encouraging.
Which I needed, since the week leading up to the event I was in a bit of an artistic tailspin. My two large-scale project concepts had been rejected by two different juries and was feeling highly discouraged and uncertain about the feasibility or necessity of the work I'm doing. (Such is the artist's fragile ego at times - believe me, I'm working on it.)
I'm so glad I didn't give up. The public reception to Mission Accomplished? was overwhelming and very very powerful; I spent 12 hours over the course of the weekend answering questions and explaining the work to nearly everyone who passed by.
Some comments were puzzling. For instance, this was a surprisingly common exchange:
Viewer: "Are all of these pins places you've been?"
Me: "No, each pin represents a dead solider."
Viewer: ... "Oh."... [looks at map again]... "Oh."
... and it was satisfying to see the transformative power of this work when the reality crashed over them.
I was moved to tears by the reaction of one Iraq veteran's father, whose son "came back, but he didn't come back the same". He thanked me for the work, "for caring". I didn't know what to say, except to express sympathy for his loss and wish him the best.
I was not prepared for so many people to thank me for simply caring enough to do the work. It just took me by surprise - I don't know why it was so surprising, but as a result I did not know what to say, except for "You're welcome." and "I wish it were not necessary".
I was humbled and grateful by the genuine support shown during the weekend. It was a reminder that this work is important, that it DOES have meaning to someone other than me.
I want to use that encouragement to continue the work, and to answer common questions/desires posited by people as they viewed the piece:
- What about the casualties from other fronts/military operations? Where did they come from?
- What is the socioeconomic makeup of these various areas? Is there a difference between rich and poor areas of the country?
That weekend of answering questions and watching people react to this piece proved to me that this work is worth doing on much larger and more detailed scale.
To that end, I want to create a related piece, called "They Were Here".
It's much larger in scope and detail, but in a nutshell:
- Each state individually mapped, at least 1 x 2 feet in size
- All 50 states plus Puerto Rico and the Pacific Territories, mapped at the same scale for accuracy.
- County-level socioeconomic information (from the US Census) detailing median household income
- Representing all fatal American military casualties from all three Global War On Terror fronts:
- Operation Iraqi Freedom
- Operation Enduring Freedom
- Operation New Dawn
- Opening day for this show: Friday, November 7th,2014; the weekend before Veteran's Day. Show will run until the end of December, possibly longer.
This is a MASSIVE undertaking and I am stoked to begin. I am launching a Kickstarter campaign very soon to drum up support for this. This was a brainchild conceived by community support and encouragement; hopefully it will be birthed that way as well.
If funded, this WILL be my 2014. Full stop. This project requires I work on this (and only this) pretty much non-stop between the end of the funding campaign (January 31st) and the end of the year when I close the show. It is a great labor of love and respect and I would be so honored for the chance to complete it.