The suffering of innocent children during the senseless and selfish actions of war was the impetus for me to paint this 48" X 60" oil on canvas painting, Omran, Angels Are Here!
Several months ago I became obsessed with the news image of the little five year old boy, Omran Daqneesh, in Aleppo, Syria, who had been pulled out of the rubble of a bombed building and placed, bleeding, alone and forlorn, on an ambulance seat. His hopeless, dazed, vacant expression haunted me. The blood dripping down the side of his face onto his shirt repulsed me. I felt powerless as I longed to reach out and comfort him. The idea of somehow sending "angels" to attend to him and be by his side came into my mind's eye, and I knew that I needed to "speak" with my painting ability to share these feelings and bring angels to comfort Omran.
The depiction of angels interacting with humans has been used throughout art history. I am grateful for the work of Andrei Rublev and William Bouguereau for details and inspiration in helping me find the right note for the angel images in this work. Painting this was the only way I felt empowered in the face of such insane world events.
I used a representative/realistic contemporary figurative style to show Omran on the ambulance seat, surrounding him with angel depictions from the 15th and 19th centuries. The visual energy derived from the hot red seat behind Omran, the classical blue, green, red and yellow colors of angels and background and the composition combining historical religious imagery with a contemporary subject, lends this painting a particularly icon-like feeling while speaking about a most horrendous recent event. Bridging the cultural/religious divide by also including "peace be with you," and "hope, joy and peace" written in Arabic, English and Latin on the angel halos as part of this work also expresses my desire to bring peace and comfort to Omran, and those in harms way all over the world, no matter what language is spoken.
In 2016, a massive protest and gathering of Native American tribes and supporters occurred near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in order to bring attention to and protect the water source of the Lakota Sioux Tribe from having a potentially dangerous and polluting oil pipeline installed under Lake Oahe. A makeshift camp, Oceti Sakowin, sprang up on BLM land, housing this gathering. On December 4, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers attached an injunction preventing the pipeline from being built under Lake Oahe. Indigenous peoples, U.S. Armed Forces veterans and supporters from all walks of life then celebrated, joyously holding hands, completely encircling Camp Oceti Sakowin.
I became aware of and interested in this protest movement as I watched the unfolding story on the news and from reports from my pastor, Reverend Patty Willis, who had personally visited Oceti Sakowin camp twice. The story captured my imagination and I felt strongly that I wanted to express the sacred nature of how the Native peoples view their environment and how groups came together to fend off evil. I determined to compose a painting that would, in effect, combine views of sky, earth (the camp) and water as one living entity and surround it with joyously celebrating humans as occurred on December 4, 2016. I used photos from my pastor, who was there on that date, and other references of landscape elements to set an image that would have the reflective quality of water and ice so that the clouds could be reflected and there would be no literal borders between the natural elements. Then I placed the celebrating people (taken from photos by Reverend Willis) into the scene, encircling the ramshackle camp without regard to literal perspective.