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Benjamin June

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Benjamin June - Artist Statement - March 2011

I make work to memorialize loss. In a desire to understand loss by confronting memory and our current global situation, hopefully we as individuals will learn the tools to move forward as a more thoughtful society.

For many years my subject was a personal loss and I made mixed media sculptures utilizing the symbolic nature of elements in houses, guns and male genitalia; in an attempt to work through issues of masculinity, violence, death and memory. During the last three and a half years, my work has been solely focused on the losses that are occurring in the Iraq War and the ensuing humanitarian crisis there.

What is happening in Iraq scares me in a profound way. Iím interested in confronting this fear through art making in an attempt to understand the lives, deaths and struggles of the Iraqi people. I force myself to look at terrible images and read frightening articles to try to comprehend the atrocities of our war and the sectarian conflict it has caused. I feel that it is very important to recognize the horrible in the world, as it is just as important as the beautiful.

In my search for meaning and understanding of this massive loss of life, I am working on four ongoing projects that discuss different aspects of the war. I sew and embroider small memorial pillows for each suicide attack in Iraq since the U.S. invasion, as there was never a suicide attack in the country before. To date there have been more than 1,700 separate attacks that have left more than 18,500 people dead. The suicide attacks are but a small aspect of the war, but for me they are the most horrifying because of how personal, psychological and deadly they are. I choose to make small pillows, because they are inherently intimate objects, to explore the physical intimacy of the suicide bombers with the people they kill. Iím also interested in the contradiction of chaos and destruction versus fragility and comfort. The attacks and the war are more horrific than we can imagine, and to explore this I need to make something that is tangible and approachable.

I am also working on embroideries on paper of Iraqi maps and weapons, wood-burned drawings of the dead on paper, and handmade and embroidered books of quotes from Iraqi human rights abuse victims. It is all part of the process to try to understand this conflict, to personalize it. The processes that I use, embroidery and drawing with a wood burning tool, require time, focus and intimacy. I have to be thoughtful and delicate with the materials as well as the concepts, and the end result speaks to fragility, memory and loss.

I believe that these portraits, books and memorial pillows are not for the victims or for the attackers; they are for the whole, tragic situation. I am attempting to raise awareness and to open a dialogue about the brutality of this war, the phenomenon of suicide terrorism and the societal and cultural loss that our government, and we as Americans, are at least partially responsible for.



Chicago, IL
Illinois
North America


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