Portrait Exhibit at Syracuse Gives Faces to Soldiers Killed in Iraq
by William Kates
SYRACUSE, NY -- It's hard to forget the face of a fallen soldier. Imagine the impression created by 1,483 of them.
Portraits of American servicemen and women killed in Iraq go on display Thursday on a 200-foot stretch of wall in Syracuse University's Shaffer Art Building. The 5-by-7-inch images will stay up until April 1.
"It's a powerful sight to take in," said Syracuse University professor Stephen Zaima, who teaches painting. "It's not about the artists or their styles. It's not about the war or politics. It's about these people who have given their lives."
The exhibition, "To Never Forget: Faces of the Fallen," builds on the work done last year by students and faculty at The College of Marin in California, who produced 1,109 portraits.
The 374 others -done using pencil, ink, oils, water colors, prints, even computers - were created by students, faculty and staff members at Syracuse as well as local artists. The portraits are of soldiers who were killed up to Feb. 19.
As of Thursday, at least 1,502 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Zaima painted 1st Lt. Adam Malson, 23, of Rochester Hills, Mich., who died Feb. 19. "Sitting there eye to eye, you get a connection," he said. "You get to know them a little bit."
Ashley McDowell, a sophomore art photography student from Seabrook, N.H., used a pencil to draw Army Sgt. Charles Webb, 22, of Hamilton, Ohio, who died in November in a roadside bombing.
"Our soldiers are showing the ultimate in generosity. I think people felt like it was a privilege to participate, a way to return some of that generosity," McDowell said.
The artists based their work mainly on newspaper and Internet photographs of the soldiers. Some were given additional personal information.
Elena Peteva, a graduate student from Sofia, Bulgaria, learned that Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John D. House was in Iraq when his son was born on Christmas Eve. House, a 28-year-old medic from Ventura, Calif., was killed Jan. 26 along with 30 Marines when their helicopter crashed in bad weather.
"He had warm, understanding eyes and a very sweet expression. I know he would have made a good father," said Peteva. "I will always remember his face."
Among the portraits are a few gray panels. They represent soldiers for whom no photograph was available.
The portraits will eventually be sent to the soldiers' families.
"I'd be proud to give these to their families," said Jennifer Schiffman, a senior from Buffalo Grove, Ill.
© 2005 The Associated Press