Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mission Accomplished: The Hand to Hand Project

I was a much younger woman when the Iraq War started. I had a mother, a brother, a job. I didn't like my job so I moved on and on and on again. I bought a new car. My brother died. My mother died. I began walking.  I walked 60 miles. Twice. I developed my art. I wrote a novel. Students I teach now at the Art Institute and in Ashford U's online writing center were children. Now they are veterans. The war continued. The war continues. 

In 2003, Atlanta artist Cecelia Kane began her response to the war in a very deliberate, meditative way. Like the beads she'd grown up counting, she counted days, marking each one with a drawing and an inscription on a white glove. Gloves, she'd learned from a day clearing and packing away her late mother's handbags and gloves, retain the shape of their inhabitant. 

In 2006, with the war showing no signs of ending but reaching a breaking point, Cecelia opened her counting to include other artists. A project, Hand to Hand, began and continued. And continues.
With the removal of combat troops in Iraq, the project is now coming to an end. Mission accomplished? Well, the title was always facetious.

The project, along with two others, is on exhibit in Athens at ATHICA. It is, in the words of one participant, "stunning and humbling."  See here:

Statement for the catalog
June 28-July 4, 2009

I was both flattered and intimidated when Cecilia invited me to participate in this project.  Like most Americans, my early, more emotional reaction to the war in Iraq has been dulled by time and more immediate and personal events. In a way, the news stories published during the week I was assigned to follow, which included Independence Day, had a similar jaded quality. Stories of an Iraqi man’s evolution from poor worker to very wealthy entrepreneur (thanks to US government contracts) and VP Biden’s July 4th visit seemed quite dry. Because I’m a book artist, I stitched the gloves (which I’d imprinted with green vines and then dyed red) together in a kind of Coptic stitch, added a cover and proceeded to embellish with: a rabies vaccination tag from the VietNam era, the key to an American Tourister suitcase and several other bits. I smoothed lace-edged handkerchiefs given to me by my mother around the book’s cover. I simply needed to keep adding. Because I am also a writer, I printed most of each day’s headline on the front of the glove but added an ellipsis and forced the reader to turn the “page” to get the “last word” which I inscribed on the back. 

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