Mixed Media on Canvas
30" x 48", diptych
In post-9/11 U.S., militarism continues to be on a steady
rise and recruitment strategies focus primarily on communities of color
and/or poor communities. Whereas some folks still view the military as
an honorable path, for most youth being a soldier becomes a ticket out
of the ghetto. With promises of job skills training and money for college,
most kids who enlist are not considering the lives they might have to
take in the process, including their own. This image is a diptych or two-panel
painting that presents the glory sold by the military with the portrait
of the marine. This is juxtaposed with the image of an Army veteran, representing
the effects of war on a soldier. Growing up in the late 70's and 80's
amidst the heroin epidemic, I was too young then to understand the connection
that the Vietnam War had with the drug epidemic in poor communities. It
wasn't until my uncle told me his war strories when I was a teenager,
that I learned of how soldiers relied on drugs to self-medicate and numb
the pain of the atrocities they witnessed and/or were forced to commit
in war. The homelessness, the amputations, the heroin nod-offs that I
saw in my Park Slope, Brooklyn neighborhood as a kid were the effects
of the number of men of color back from the war, too emotionally or physically
disabled to continue life as usual.
In the Fall of 2004 I returned to Park Slope for an exhibit at beautiful
shop called Patrias. Convinced that as a gentrified neighborhood my boricua
community no longer existed there, I stepped off the train and to my surprise,
on Union Street, saw a man that inspired the image of the veteran in this
painting. Walking down the street, looking pissed off, he wore an army
uniform, a Puerto Rico tee shirt and carried a small Puerto Rican flag
in his hand. It was as if some greater force had put him there to represent
for the last of the Po' Ricans left in the Park Slope of my childhood.
Those memories and the present situation with this bullshit war brought
it all full circle and fed my concept for the painting.
The image of the marine is surrounded by a collage within the blue background.
Included are texts and images of military propaganda that serve to lure
young people into enlisting. The collage on the green background combines
various images that show the effects of war: the amputees, the drug addiction,
murder, slaughter. They are all juxtaposed with text on how to resist
a draft and be a conscientious objector. Included in this collage are
also images of the legendary Nuyorican Poet, Pedro Pietri who succumbed
to stomach cancer in the spring of 2004. He attributed his cancer to his
exposure to agent orange while in Vietnam. In addition he dressed in black
every day of his life to mourn the part of him that he lost while serving
in that war.
I would like to give special thanks to Walidah Imarisha and the folks
at AWOL magazine for providing images and literature for these collages.
© Copyright 2004
-15, Yasmin Hernandez. Under no circumstances should any of the images
or content of this site be downloaded, printed or reproduced without direct
permission from the artist.