September 11th, 2009
October 9th, 2009
This series of paintings dealing with the subject of forced migration of people started with a long planned visit to China in 2007. I wanted to see for myself the Yangtze River valley and what was happening to it with the building of China’s largest hydroelectric dam. I could hardly imagine the damage reeked on the land as the waters rose and the heartache of millions as their homes were destroyed. I wanted to be a witness while this was happening.After I returned I did studies for several paintings and more concerning China I am sure will come later. But what kept swirling through my mind were the numbers; of towns closed, of people moved, of homes and personal items lost, of the artifacts and history drowned out, of the number of feet the water had to rise. Numbers are usually big when the subject has anything to do with China. And numbers can quickly become overwhelming, impersonal and insignificant. This is how I began to develop a painting to express visually both great number and individual distinction.In that first painting of the series I used many bright colors, the background done in the red of China which is so evident every-where. I choose bright colors for two reasons. Visually they relate well to the strong red. Also I wished to convey the many colors of human life.When the painting was finished I began to think about a series of paintings dealing with other situations of forced migration. Thinking about how to convey visually the story of each of these groups of people has allowed the work to develop, allowed me to think about layers of paint and layers of meaning, obscuring the truth and obscuring parts of a painting. In each case I have used colors related to the people and land whose story I am telling. The paintings are bright to attract the eye and to represent human resilience in the face of the greatest tragedies. I have tried to use numbers in a visual manner to show how we are manipulated or numbed by reading statistics. For example: in the Darfur painting the nine large ovals represent the 9,000 people whom the Sudanese government admits have been killed, a huge number! But the rows of small ovals, 45 per large one, show the even larger number of actual deaths which are being covered up.