Faces of the living and the dead

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Some images visible through the window at Union 237 pulled me right off the street the other day and impelled me through the front door. They were a couple of prints by Puerto Rican political artist Carlos Irizarry from the Vietnam War era, which seem incredibly relevant and moving at this time when young men, ours and theirs, are dying regularly on the other side of the globe.

The prints were griddy images of youth and death. “My Son the Soldier” (top) and “My Son the Soldier (part II)” (shown right) were made in 1970, but they sent a shiver through me. Part I included a poem by Eugene J. McCarthy and images of military death–war photos, soldiers raising a flower instead of a flag at Iwo Jima, flag-covered coffins, a no more war poster, a skeleton with a ton of military bars, etc.

The head count in the bottom photo, by the way, added up to 197 plus one blow-up (I don’t know if it’s a repeat of a face in the small-image count, or if it makes 198). They all are young and beautiful, with their name, service branch, rank and hometown. The words on the print read, “The Faces of the Dead in Vietnam, One Week’s Toll.” I found myself mourning those long-gone young men all over again. And when I saw this morning’s sad story in the paper of the 18-year-old killed while selling flowers, I had to put up this post.

Besides the Irizarry prints, the gallery was filled with a huge selection Adrian Wecer’s war photos, starting with Vietnam, followed by wars and civil strife in places from the Western Sahara to Zaire and the Congo to the Iran-Iraq war, to Chile. The pictures, many of them quite beautiful and revealing, are chilling reminders of people’s lives and deaths all over the world.

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