Sunday, July 3, 2011

Project ECHO - Mother

11”X14” Pen & Ink and Watercolor

FEMALE SOLDIER NOT IN COMBAT: I have been corresponding with an art historian who is interested in the art of women during war. She is also interested in the role of women in war. I drew this sketch in remembrance of the many female soldiers I saw outside the base parameter pulling air guard on convoys through dangerous parts of the city. Even though women are not to enter combat, they were tasked for combat and security missions. Many politicians faced scrutiny during this time (2004-05) and I heard on the news that a congressional representative claimed females are not conducting combat missions and are kept as safe as possible from danger.

The illusion of this safekeep of female combatants caused me not to draw anything else but the top of the soldier grasping an invisible weapon riding in an invisible military vehicle. Our brigade lost several women to direct fire combat actions during our deployment.

-Mark Smith
9"X12" Pen & Ink, Charcoal and Gouache, Watercolor


Mother - by Jin Kong (originally published in 2009)
When I was young, my mother and I frequently traveled by train between Beijing and Lanzhou. The trip took more than two days and as reward for being quiet and on the promise of no tantrums, mother would always let me have the window seat. I treasured having a view to pass the boredom; it was the only means by which I could tolerate what felt like eternity.

I learned about my mother by watching her land and listening to her conversations with other passengers behind me.

I enjoyed watching farmers leaving their houses early in the morning, riding on the back of their water buffalo, strolling alongside of the moving train. Sometimes I would see children standing by the side of railroad, as close as they would dare, to catch a glimpse of the city folks roaring by on the strange locomotive.

Often, I was lost in the passing rural China. I wildly fantasized what it must’ve been like to live in a mud-hut. Occasionally I would focus my eyes on the dirt path next to the railroad to avoid my distant guilt for the inability to relate. As a five-year-old, I had no concepts of the rich and the poor, just enough to know that we lived in a building, had electricity and running water, while these folks had to walk a few miles to just get some water for the day.

Soon enough I learned that if I drop my eyes as close to the train as I could, and loose focus of my field of vision, life simply became a blur of lines: colorless, tasteless, and irrelevant. Yet when I blinked rapidly, I would see snapshots of the path underneath me, ever rock, every blade of grass, and every piece of the wooden rail-bed: full of color, patterns, and details... I would often imagine when there wasn’t a loud smoke belching locomotive roaring down at 60 miles per hour, children would walk by the railroad and pick up a rock to toss.

These days I avoid window seats on anything: airplanes, cars, and trains. I avoid having to relive the nostalgia for the fear of transporting my imagination. I fear the moment when I saw a rag-tag boy, picking his nose, snots crusted just above his lips, standing next to the railroad and wondering if he was going to be hungry that day...

These days, I drop my eyes close to my path, lost my focus, and rarely blink to catch the moments of details...
These days, I only dare to blink when I know there wasn’t a child staring back at my soul...

(for more images of those trains that showed me my mother land and the people I came to remember because of my mother, visit Ministry of Tofu.)

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