Friday, May 6, 2011

Portraits of the Fallen: Army Private First Class Hannah L. Gunterman

Several weeks ago I was approached by a friend who curates art shows in Los Angeles. She invited me to participate in a project commemorating fallen soldiers from California.  Each artist would be assigned a soldier and sent a photograph of them, from which a small (5" x 5") portrait would be painted. This portrait would be part of a public memorial display, along with several hundred others.

I'd recently been thinking about participating in a public art, and I decided to go for it.

I didn't realize how much it would impact me.

The soldier assigned to me was:
Army Private First Class Hannah L. Gunterman of Redlands, 20.
Based: Ft. Lewis, Wash.
542nd Maintenance Company, 44th Corps Support Battalion
Supporting: Operation Iraqi Freedom
Died: September 4, 2006
Taji, Iraq
Married, 1 child

I was sent a photograph and a link to this page: 
Wanting to learn more about this young woman, I typed her name into Google and found several articles related to her death.  What I discovered broke my heart.
For awhile, the tragic nature of her story sort of paralyzed me.  Thinking about this beautiful young woman, gone at the tender age of 20 years old, lost to her family, husband and young son, who had gone to war for our country and ended so tragically, filled me with such sadness, anger, confusion and heartbreak.  I can barely imagine the grief of her family.  I never knew Hannah, but her story tore me up inside.
I struggled with how to express all of it, how to honor her in the face of such heartache, and posted on Facebook about my situation and dilemma.  Thankfully, my friends offered me sound guidance, urging me to focus not on her death, but on her life, and her service to our country.
Ultimately I decided to paint a straightforward portrait - one that strives to capture the sparkle in her eye, her playful grin, her vibrancy.  
We hear the statistics about soldiers dying in wars all the time, but until we get a glimpse of their world, their deaths and the impact of their loss on their families, it's difficult to truly value the sacrifices they make for our freedom, and for the freedom of others.
This assignment has changed me profoundly. It's made me more aware of, and more appreciative of the risks our servicemen and women take to keep us safe and free. It is easy to enjoy our freedoms and comforts, to take them for granted and feel entitled.  But freedom is not 'free'.  There is a price, and our soldiers are willing to pay it so the rest of us don't have to.  That is a tremendous gift, and one we should all honor.
This portrait will eventually be displayed somewhere in Los Angeles, at a place and time as yet undetermined.  I will post the details when I get them

1 comment:

  1. Christina--What a great web-site! It is gorgeous, as is your art. What a beautiful picture you did of Hannah. You have to be so proud of your work. You have so much talent.


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