In Our Name: Iraqi Children in War (partial view)
Acrylic on scrim and canvas
18 x 20 x 50 feet
Simons Rock College of Bard
In Our Name: Iraqi Children in War
Installation by Christine Heller
Iraqi children, wounded and maimed, crying in pain, in chaos and sorrow. Little girl and little boy cutouts, so perfect, so ring-around-the rosy, represent the childhood we want for all children. They stand and stare at us like a Greek chorus: "can't you do something, can't you do something, can't you do something?"
Little girl and little boy cutouts, ripped, torn and breaking apart, evoke the pain of our powerlessness. Black paintings show despairing children but their cries fall on deaf ears. These children cannot be protected by their parents or by anyone.
This project developed from my 2005 installation, America Comes Home, which dealt with consequences for American soldiers in the Iraq War. While searching for photos of dead and wounded soldiers for that project, I found images of maimed and crying Iraqi children. These photos became the basis for In Our Name. I used the photos of Iraqi children as templates for 6' x 6' paintings on black fabric scrims. The scrims hang over two long friezes, each 40 feet in length. On one frieze, cookie-cutter perfect children are painted all in black: each image stoic, a witness to the war and a witness to the part we play in it. In the other frieze, the "perfect" images of children are dissolving, disappearing and coming apart: each image is a metaphor for loss. I want my imagery to be derived from the photographs but not be defined by specific children; the depictions are universal not particular. They could represent any child in the world who is unprotected from war, natural disasters or abuse.