Faces of the Fallen
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JEFFREY BROWN: Faces of men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, some 1,300 portraits done by nearly 200 artists who worked from photographs in an unusual exhibition that opened today at Arlington National Cemetery.
Sgt. Pamela Osbourne, age 38. Lance Corp. Jeffrey Lam, 22. Lance Corp. Elias Torrez, 21. A number of news organizations, including the NewsHour, have displayed photographs of the war’s dead. Artists here had a further goal.
ANNETTE POLAN: I’m going to give these people something more permanent than a fleeting image in a newspaper.
JEFFREY BROWN: Portrait artist Annette Polan, who conceived the idea, says the exhibition is also about one role of art in our society.
ANNETTE POLAN: Each artist was told we have a mission through the power of art to honor the fallen and offer some sort of comfort to their families.
JACQUELINE DIXON: It had a scripture that said Joshua…
JEFFREY BROWN: That public display of caring was what led Jacqueline and Alexander Dixon to travel from their home in New Jersey to Washington yesterday. Their son, Anthony, was killed in Iraq when his vehicle came under fire.
JACQUELINE DIXON: I wanted to make sure it looked good when I saw it. I prayed to god that it would be special, very special. And that’s exactly what it is, it’s special. It’s like he’s right there looking at you with his eyes, it’s just beautiful.
ALEXANDER DIXON: I believe Miss Carr caught the essence of his spirit. He was a really an intense young man, and a lovely young man, and she got both qualities.
JEFFREY BROWN: Kathleen Carr, a Washington artist, worked from nine different photos of Dixon, and read about him on the Internet.
KATHLEEN CARR: My vision was to approach them as an old master would. I thought that would give a dignified look. So darkening the background, having the faces emerge into the light, Anthony was one of five children and that he was quite a spirited person and that he was very much loved being in the military. I really just wanted to do my best to faithfully paint and capture a likeness.
JEFFREY BROWN: The artists, who in full disclosure include this correspondent’s wife, were told the portraits must be eight inches tall and six inches wide. But the results were quite diverse, says Annette Polan.
ANNETTE POLAN: I have works in clay, works in glass, wood carvings, works on fiber, drawings and paintings, collage, montage. Some of the work is three dimensional.
JEFFREY BROWN: Private First Class Jeffrey Braun, age 19. Karina Lao, 20. And Chance Phelps, 19, who was painted by his own father.
WOMAN: His eyes and the emotion in his eyes.
JEFFREY BROWN: Thirty-one-year-old Marine Capt. Andrew Lamont of Pilot was the youngest of nine children. His sister Kathleen remembers taking the photo that would become the basis for his portrait.
KATHLEEN ROBERTS: The picture of Andrew right after he became a Marine officer, and he dressed up in his dress blues, and wanted a picture of him, and so he was on my front porch steps and I just remember standing through the front door and having the trees and the outside surrounding him and just taking the picture, never knowing where it was going to go from there.
JEFFREY BROWN: Washington artist Mary Challinor did 12 portraits for the exhibit, including Andrew Lamont’s.
MARY CHALLINOR: There was something about the photograph that was able to capture both a dignity and a wistfulness — I think because it was taken by his sister, as opposed to some of the other photographs I worked from, which were official military photographs. So when I painted the portrait, I tried to capture the emotion that I saw in that photograph.
JEFFREY BROWN: During yesterday’s preview for family members and artists, there was much talk of the art and the fallen; less about the war and the controversy it stirred. Annette Polan says the intent here was to unify and not divide people.
ANNETTE POLAN: Most of the artists are opposed to the war; many of the family members support it. All of the artists are sympathetic to the families, and all of the families appreciate what these artists have given. That is success for me.
JEFFREY BROWN: Family member Kathleen Roberts agreed.
KATHLEEN ROBERTS: That is what is so beautiful about this, is the way America has really come and supported these people. Even if you don’t support the war, that they have supported the families and supported the soldiers who have died by doing this, and the soldiers who are still out there.
JEFFREY BROWN: Last night, relatives, military officials and artists gathered outside the Women’s Military Memorial to celebrate the lives of the fallen. The exhibit will continue inside the Memorial Building through the fall, and organizers hope to bring it to other cities. Eventually, all the portraits will be given to the families.