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Operation Mopping Up

Operation Mopping Up is my response to the war in Iraq: equal parts memorial to the dead, protest of the Bush adminstration’s war-mongering, and a warning to us all of the material and psychological work that lies ahead as a result of the war’s devastation. The memorial aspect uses the time-honored method of listing the names of the dead. There are over 7,000 names of Iraqi and other civilians—women, men, children, babies, teenagers, elders—found at as of October 2005. These are the names and “incidents” that can be verified; the site estimates between 81,510 and 88,976 civilians have been killed as I write this statement at the beginning of 2008. The names of the military coalition and contractor dead have been obtained from In my opinion, both civilians and soldiers are equally victims, so I have included all their names in memorium.

A figure dressed in cowboy boots and a red dress is mopping a lot of red, representing blood, in front of a “wall” of newspaper accounts about the war’s carnage. The mopping action and the clothesline installation refers to women’s domestic work. This is a feminist metaphor for the work we in the US will have to do in reconstructing the country of Iraq, but also the psychological work all of us as citizens will need to do since the rationale for the war was done in our names and for our “safety.” The clothesline hangs our dirty laundry out to dry, and its continuation into a heap of line on the floor is a rather pessimistic view of the possible length of the fighting war, but also this psychological aftermath. Cowboy boots are a reference to the “wild west” mentality and the red dress—inappropriate attire for mopping—shows that we are poorly prepared for this work.

The names were copied from the web sites, name by name, and organized into columns in Adobe Illustrator and then transferred to Adobe Photoshop. The newpaper articles and figure drawings were composed in Adobe Photoshop, and printed in black ink on an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 on Copperplate warm white paper. The color was added by hand with acrylic paint.

This piece was first shown in January 2005 at St. Catherine University. It was subsequently shown in the Minnesota Museum of American Art’s juried exhibition, 2D Biennial II, in late 2005 and purchased for their collection. I felt that keeping the purchase price put me, however modestly, into the same category of war profiteers as Halliburton, Blackstone, et al. Therefore, I donated the purchase funds to the Babel Center for Human Rights and Civil Empowerment, run by Maha Al Khateeb, an Iraqi woman working near Hilla in the areas of women’s literacy, women’s health and the environment. I was able to do this through the generous mediation of Sami Rasouli of the Muslim Peacemakers Team. Operation Mopping Up has subsequently been shown again at the Minnesota Museum of American Art in their show, Let Freedom Ring, at the end of 2008.

PortraitsThe Catherine PortraitThe Buoyant HeartLooking at ArtOperation Mopping Up