Kumiko S. McKee - In This Life

Gallery > In This Life

Exhibition Statement by Artist

Exhibition Statement by Museum Director

Images of paintings for the exhibition. Click on an image to view.

Power on the Earth
Oil painting with newspaper collage on masonite
28 x 48 inches
2005
Memory
Oil painting on masonite
20 x 40 inches
2007
Novus Ordo Mundi
Oil painting with newspaper collage on masonite
60 x 40 inches
2006
Living in the Dead Zone
Oil painting with newspaper collage on masonite
60 x 40 inches
2006
Lost
Oil painting on masonite
20 x 40 inches
2007

Art Statement of “In This Life”

I’ve been working on the series of political paintings about the war in Iraq since 2004 and I tried to express what I learned and what people were talking about based collecting newspaper articles on 9/11 and Iraq war for the series. I put all of this information I found together in my paintings as a record of this tragic event and war. My paintings focus on the human drama and aspects of the human experience such as courage, conspiracy, pride, loss, sorrow, and despair. I try to provide a fair view from what I learned while conveying different perspectives to make people think about the misery and sorrow that accompanies war.

After the tragic event of 9/11, countless people were killed by the effects of war and continuing terrorist acts in the Iraq, Afghanistan, and other countries including American and coalition troops, Iraqi civilians and children, journalists and bystanders…and many people lost a member of beloved family including a husband, wife, parent, son, daughter, or friend. My question is why human beings continue to repeat wars over and over again through out history. Even though we have learned how tragic wars are and many people have to suffer, wars continue to happen in modern human society. What does “War” really mean to us? Whatever position is taken and regardless of the reason, it is clear that “people are killing each other”. Misery and great sorrow follows any war. Behind these events, many innocent children have lost their parents and many people have lost a child, family member, or friend. The feeling of grief over losing someone you love and care about is the same everywhere in the world regardless of culture and religion.

Seeing the terrible news related to the war and 9/11 on TV and in the newspaper, I often imagine how I would feel if I was a soldier facing death in the war zone; a family who lost their father, son, or husband; a child who lost her parents who were accidentally killed by soldiers at a check point in Iraq; a mother who lost her son by a car bombing; or a wife who lost her husband who was working in the twin towers on 9/11. I have seen pictures of Iraqi women walking street with terrified expressions on their faces while nearby soldiers wield huge guns. Then I often think about what it must feel like if I was forced to live in a situation with guns around all the time. In either case, it would be a mix of heartbreak and horror. The feeling of sympathy for everyone involved drove me to paint this body of work for the exhibition.

In my paintings “Living in the Dead Zone” and “Memory”, I focused on all those people who were the victims of the war as the subject and I tired to represent the events that actually or possibly happened along with the the misery and great sorrow that eventually follows the tragic events of war and terrorist actions. In my other paintings “Power on the Earth” and “Novus Ordo Mundi”, the first look of the image appears emblematic of American power and patriotism, however symbolic elements are hiding in the images and when viewers put these symbolic meanings together, they could see the real intention of the paintings—the reality of the reward for the power or what is behind the glory of power, who is responsible for the all the death. In the last painting “Lost”, I expressed the feeling of being lost with no clue how to solve in the chaos in Iraq. But it is not only in Iraqi people but also the Americans and the rest of us. A Muslim figure prays for the help of god, an ambiguous face, neither Iraqi nor Caucasian, male nor female gazes sorrowfully at a sepia sky. When you look at it, you realize that figure could be anyone.

I hope my paintings help the viewer to visualize reality and outcome of war and make us rethink about the meaning of war. At the same time, this is a message to future people that these tragic events of war should never happen again. A record in time of what occurred during our life and that peace is needed in the world.

Kumiko S. McKee