Documentary of "111,978"
Interview with the artist
Every day is a new day, or so they say, but most often everyday is routine. Daily life can often feel monotonous. We wake up, eat breakfast, go to work, head to the gym, etc, and the next day repeat it all over again. While we go through days without much worry for others not included in our own worlds, most often it is the environment around us that should captivate more of our individual attention. In the grand scheme of things it seems pretty self-absorbed to be so removed from what others go through or what is happening to the world around us. But one of the most interesting phenomenons of life is that of a flashback. Those moments, good or bad, conjured up by a feeling, a photograph, a song lyric, a scent, or a word that can literally take us back to another time in our life. It is usually these flashbacks that put our routinely daily lives into perspective.
On September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. The land I now call my home had shaken me up with fear. I believed that there was no safe place in this world. What I thought was iron-clad safety in a country I lived in was now shattered and I believed war was imminent. Subsequently, in March of 2003, the US and its allies declared war on Iraq. At the same time my mind kept flashing back to my childhood experiences as a victim of war. Out of nowhere I started hearing loud gunshots and bombs exploding. Buildings around me crumbled, houses were torn apart, people were screaming, crying, and running around chaotically. Soon there was no food to speak of and hunger began a year’s long gnawing at my stomach. All of these things became part of my daily life. Often I would look up at the shining stars in the night sky and wish for my family to be in a better place. I escaped Vietnam with my family in 1981 to find freedom as the Boat People. My prayers and wishes came true in 1982 when I first set foot in America, as an immigrant to the land of freedom, peace, and opportunity.
Looking back on the history of humanity and its conflicts to the present day, I once again look up at the night sky wishing the world would be a better place for us and our children’s generations to live in. It is here that I found the answer to the conflicts of war, first through creating a journal of faces and names of deceased service men and women of the Armed Forces, then through painting spiral circles on canvas, in desperation of wanting to heal the wounds of all sufferers including myself and my childhood experiences. I spent years painting 111,978. It somehow looks like a star lit sky where the sky and water merge as one. Each circle represents one life that was lost in the Iraq war. Each circle represents a soul at rest.
As with most feelings and memories, they are fleeting. It is not long before the flashback ends and you head back to present day life. It is what we all take from these small moments that push us toward being more aware and compassionate human beings. Every time someone looks at 111,978, I want them to walk away with a lingering feeling, one that cannot easily be explained. All lives are meaningful; all lives have value and purpose. It is this perspective that will allow me to wake up to a new day, every day.
48" x 576" Oil on Linen and Canvas
Details of Canvas #4
Details for Canvas #6 and 7
Book of fallen soliders