Drowning in a Sea of Indifference

Last summer, the Western press was transfixed by the image of Aylan Kurdi, the young boy washed ashore after drowning during his father’s desperate trek across the Mediterranean. Suddenly Europe, the U.S. and Canada called out for action. Suddenly, the West paid attention.

And yet, this tragedy had been going on for years. Tens of thousands of children have died, both within Syria and along the harrowing route to sanctuary. Sadly, many on the receiving end of the refugee flow have remained indifferent, or worse,  have closed their doors to those who managed to survive the journey. While we can blame the sea and the smugglers and the flimsy rafts for these children’s deaths, it is our own indifference and inaction that have allowed it to continue. We say we have our own problems to deal with. We are afraid a terrorist will infiltrate. Why should we take the risk of bringing in refugees?

Why? Because the only difference between me and a Syrian refugee is that I happen to be born in the U.S., and they happen to be born in Syria. I did nothing in particular to earn this twist of fortune. It could be me. Aylan could be my child. Or yours.

This painting is dedicated to these children and their parents. Many died within sight of the shoreline; their deaths were preventable. Now the same Aegean Sea that has long  brought to mind joyful images of summer vacation and sun-kissed relaxation for Europeans, has become a killing field for the innocent.

I can only hope that our indifference will transform into compassionate action.



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. (more…)

In the Cocoon, then Emerging

cocoonJust as a caterpillar curls up into a cocoon to make the metamorphosis into a butterfly, I’ve been holed up with my paints and my thoughts for some time now. I made a conscious decision not to exhibit, and instead turned inward to explore new media and new ideas.

The resulting journey has led me through oil painting, spray paint, airbrush, stained canvas, and collage. I’ve learned something from every one of these media.

Stay tuned: I will begin posting the results of my exploration soon…

Exhibit Captures the Colors of Summer

moira ratchford next to "souvenirs de Paris"During July, 2013, I’ll be the featured artist at the Montgomery Art Association gallery in Wheaton mall.

We’re having a great opening reception on June 30, 1-5pm, with free wine, food and plenty of art not just by me but by all the other fabulous local artists shown at the gallery.


Never give up

Ce n'est que toi qui a trouvé mon coeurOn many mornings, I walk to our neighborhood library to pick up a book. While much of the neighborhood is  residential,  in front of the library there is a major six-lane road that is constantly streaming with cars.

A couple of days ago, I noticed a mockingbird perched at the very top of a tree in front of the library, and only a few yards from the rushing traffic below. It was singing the most beautiful song, nearly imperceptible above the roar of the cars and trucks. Were it not for its song, I would not even have looked up and noticed this plucky little bird. (more…)