The Law of the Instrument: “I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” Quote attributed to Abraham Kaplan and Abraham Maslow
The Witness: The largest piece in the show. It is a figure that has no identifiable gender or age or anything qualifying in that regard. The Witness is history, ever present, observing and taking notes.
The Watchmaker: Thérèse Kapangala was a 24-year-old Congolese trainee nun shot by Congolese security forces outside of the Church of St Francis de Sales while protesting for fair elections in the DRC. She was wearing a black dress with white polka dots at the time of her death, which is why she is wearing them in the painting. Her figure is surrounded by a structured grid with primary colors. Utopian language that traps anyone that does not figure into that definition of utopia. She is a watchmaker for similar reasons to an older work, The End of Time. If you die, time is gone and it is something you can hold in your hand as a toy.
The Chess Player
The Chess Player: The head is a mashup of Paul Cambon and Sir Edward Grey, the French and English signatories for the Sykes-Picot Agreement. I don’t think I need to spell out why I used a chess player to depict people involved in carving up the Middle East. The chess player is an ages-old theme running through art, pointing towards competition, debate and power.
The Cartographer: The face is François Georges-Picot. The line drawings in the piece are the map of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. The body is a mirror image of the same composition used in The Chess Player. In all probability, this is not actually François Georges-Picot. I found a photo where this man was identified as such but it is the only one I found depicting this man. Any other photos I found of Picot look like a completely different guy. Such is history. I voluntarily embraced the idea of being wrong in choosing this head. Similar to other works, the composition is partially derived from modernist work that deals with utopian principles. One man’s utopia is another’s dystopia.
Jean-Pierrre Ndulani: Ndulani was a Congolese priest kidnapped and murdered by rebel forces. The pattern is reflective of clothing he wore. The use of rigid geometric forms and primary colors has already been explained. His body was found in a mass grave.
Variations of Rahno 5
Variations of Rahno 6
Variations of Rahno: Faraj Rahho was a Catholic priest in Iraq that was kidnapped by al-Qaeda and later found dead. It is unclear whether he was killed by them or died due to preexisting health conditions that would have threatened his health if not treated while in captivity.
Variations of Rahno 7
Variations of The Rahno 8
Variations of Rahno 9
The series is a deliberate attempt to spend time with one subject for an extended period of time. Also, the series is titled “Variations of Rahno” with a letter “n” in his name and yet I have also seen his name is also spelled “Rahho” with two “h”s. I do not know which is correct. It is more than likely a disagreement in translation. If you can remember how many wants we spelled Osama Bin Laden in 2001 before just picking one and sticking with it, then you can see why there would be multiple spellings to choose from.
Khaled al-Asaad: al-Asaad was a Syrian archaeologist and a retired head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra. He was born and raised in Palmyra and refused to leave when ISIS entered the city. Prior to the occupation of the city, he aided in hiding some of the city’s antiquities from what everyone understood to be an unavoidable iconoclasm. He was tortured, executed, beheaded and his body was tied to a street sign post with his head between his feet with a sign reading “Director of Idolatry”.
Flight to Egypt
Flight to Egypt: The subject is a 27-year-old pregnant, migrant mother detained at the US border near Tijuana. The base layers of the work are organic and less rigid, but have a rigid linear system imposed on them. The linear work, similar to The Witness piece is medieval in nature, generated from a Madonna and Child icon. The Flight to Egypt is a Biblical narrative and you can look it up if you need an explanation. You probably do not. It’s the second largest piece in the show for a reason. She outranks everyone but history itself.
Albert Toungoumale Baba
Albert Toungoumale Baba: Baba was a Catholic priest in the Central African Republic killed by a militant group. Patterning reflects clothing he was photographed in.
Mary of the Sea
Mary of the Sea: A combination of a refugee and a medieval Mary Magdalene. Some medieval legends tell that, years after the crucifixion, Magdalene was driven from away from her homeland by pagans and ended up in southern France.
The Card Player
The Card Player: The face is Mark Sykes. The two previous paintings, along with this and the Watchmaker, are established occupations and depictions of powerful people in western art history. But similar to the Chess Player, is hints at strategy, wagering and blind luck.
Spirits 1-3: These are three of a large group of men on one of hundreds of boats that try to cross the Mediterranean from Libya or somewhere similar in an effort to get to Italy or Spain. I do not know their names. They could be from a Sub- Saharan or Saharan nation. They are geometrically-hollowed out shells of their former selves, leaving everything behind to start something new.