Changed by Duty – ArtPrize Entries 62872 and 63295

ArtPrize 8 is rich with entries that comment on the human condition. Here I share about just two of them. Both pieces reflect the change forced on individuals as they serve particular roles in society.

ArtPrize Entry 62872 by Cassandra Burgess

ArtPrize Entry 62872 by Cassandra Burgess

ArtPrize Entry 62872
by Cassandra Burgess

As depicted in the work of his daughter, Cassandra Burgess, Chief Master Sergeant Robert Burgess has changed. He has been hurt by what he has experienced in war in the middle east, as have thousand of others. What at first appears to just be a chalk drawing of the soldier is actually a sculpture—some sort of sharp edged metal fragments protrude from his helmet.

The pain that post traumatic stress disorder causes—not only for the immediate victim, but also for the victim’s family—inspired the creation. The artist says that the profound change in her father brought indescribable changes to him and her family. The art work grew out of her attempt to deal with the pain of these changes. In her words:

“Working on ‘PTS’ was originally an escape from the changes but it became the very place that helped me process my feelings. I disconnected my mind and put my body into it. I drew, sculpted, sanded and physically worked through what I was feeling. The 2D chalk pastel drawing transitions to a 3D sculpture made of plaster, metal, and wood. It resembles the transition of my denial of my father having PTSD to a tangible reality in my life. The abstract forms coming from the helmet resembles what cannot be described.”

ArtPrize 62872 is unnamed yet reveals the value—for both the victim and his or her loved ones—of acknowledging the pain within and of processing that pain in a circle of human care, .

ArtPrize Entry 63295 – “Defacement” by Patrick Foran

ArtPrize Entry 63295 "Defacement by Patrick Foran

ArtPrize Entry 63295 “Defacement by Patrick Foran

I found the effect of “Defacement” powerful but also confusing. Unlike Burgess’s work, the images in Patrick Foran’s charcoal drawing “Defacement” struck me as a covering up—even erasing—the human individual. The  three images depict three people, each wearing a suit, seemingly to protect them—perhaps in an environment of war or outer space or contamination.The helmets or masks they wear don’t just protect—they completely hide the faces behind them. Other than a human nose showing in one image, the humans behind the masks are nonentities.Artprize is the biggest art contest in the world. See the website and and view more entries.

I read the explanation at the ArtPrize page for “Defacement,” in order to better understand something of Foran’s intent. He seems not to be exploring the individual, but to be exploring the power of government or other social systems to apply a new face on people using mass media. He says:

“These images are not masked or concealed faces; they represent the production of a new face under the domain of a specific semiotic [using signs or symbols – my note] regime. They are mobilized as instruments in the service of the military, the CDC, the space program.”

It seems the masks and suits are not meant so much to hide the person but to convert individual into tools of service. I’m not sure I see the world as Foran does. But as in all art, one doesn’t need to find the “correct” interpretation of a work in order to feel its effect. And I felt a powerful effect viewing “Defacement.”

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