Portraits aim to honor Canada's fallen soldiers
TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Joanne Tod is sickened every time she hears about the death of another Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, even though she plans to paint the portrait of each and every one.
It's a work, she says, that will remain unfinished until either the war is over or Canada pulls out its troops.
The prominent contemporary artist has painted every detail of what she says are 36 "beautiful faces" but she's yet to catch up to the total of 76 soldiers who have died since the mission began in 2002, including two who died over this past weekend.
"It's a sad questioning of when does it end," Tod told Reuters, calling the piece a gesture of appreciation to the soldiers, and an homage to an uncle -- also an artist -- who was killed during World War Two.
The Toronto artist, who's been painting portraits for 30 years, was moved to begin painting the 6- by 5-inch wood panels last September. She works chronologically and began with four soldiers who were killed by friendly fire during the Afghan mission.
Tod clips the soldiers' photos out of newspapers or searches the Canadian military's Web site. She said she realizes how long the war has gone on because the images begin as formal studio shots and are turning into updated candids of soldiers, wearing their fatigues in the desert.
"These look like happy people," said Tod, who also teaches at the University of Toronto. "They look well fed, and fit and cute, with nice smooth skin, and I get a nice contact with what I think their character might have been like."
Her plan is for the wood panels to be interlocked, much like a mosaic or a quilt, with other panels that make up a Canadian flag about 8 feet by 16 feet, she said.
So far, all the soldiers she's painted have been men -- except for 26-year-old Nichola Goddard. Along with the soldiers, she has also painted Canadian diplomat Glyn Berry, who was killed in Afghanistan a year ago in a suicide bombing.
Tod says she has been approached by family members, who support her work. However, she won't sell the portraits individually, but would like to see the entire series exhibited as one piece.
She describes herself as anti-war and says she wishes the soldiers were in a peacekeeping role, helping rebuild Afghanistan, rather than on a combat mission.
"I feel very ambivalent about the whole thing ... when I see these faces coming up, one after the other and I spend time with each of them," she said. "It is a waste of strong, healthy people.
- Tweet this
- Share this
- Digg this