How the “Ghosts” Painting Came to Life

“Their Ghosts Will Judge Us: A Plea for Peace in Syria”

Sketch for "Their Ghosts Will Judge Us..."

Sketch for the painting.

The image of the Syrian woman with the dove (at left), which inspired the painting that was juried into the 2015 Yellow Barn Exhibit,  came to me one day as I was reflecting on the situation in Syria, and I quickly sketched it out while it was fresh in my mind. Usually, I have to rework a sketch a few times before I’m satisfied with it, but this one seemed to emerge whole  from somewhere in my subconscious.

She is not any specific person I had seen in photos, but to me, she is the face of Syria.

Her ephemeral visage symbolizes the humanity—the beauty, the kindness, and the basic dignity—that have been sacrificed on the front lines of this conflict.Their Ghosts will Judge Us: A Plea for Peace in Syria

This painting marks a stark departure from my previous works. My existing portfolio focused on vibrant, joyous colors, and mostly subjects from nature. But here, in attempting to crystallize the tragedy of Syria in an image, I could  feel only muted, melancholy colors coming to the fore.

The jagged shapes in the background symbolize the pain that has been inflicted on an entire population, and the shrapnel of barrel bombs. The woman’s face is pallid and ghostly, a specter of Syria’s former visage.

Still, I nurture as always an ember of hope.  Amid the barbed wire winding its way through the background, Syria’s resilient jasmine vines still bloom with each year’s cycle of spring. They bloom amid death and destruction, creeping up from the ground and entwining the rubble.

The dove reminds us that even in our darkest hour, we must somehow find our way back to peace.  Yet the silent eyes of Syria cast an accusatory gaze on our indifference, because with each passing day, more innocent people are dying. The ghosts of Syrian men, women and children are pleading with us to find a resolution to this barbaric war.

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