Emily Prince's American Servicemen and Women Who Have Died in Iraq and Afghanistan (but not Including the Wounded, nor the Iraqis nor the Afghans) is a tribute to every American soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004. Comprising of 5,158 drawings - one for every fallen soldier to date - this ongoing memorial project brings attention to the human cost of war, turning statistics back into portraits of real lives sacrificed on the field. Rendered in graphite pencil, each portrait appears on small coloured cards which correspond to the skin tone of soldiers, including details about their appearance, posture, and expression, and personal facts such as their name, age, and place of origin. American Servicemen and Women... pays homage to the individuals who have died and operates as a study of racial demographics for soldiers sent to fight. Previously hung in the shape of the US map, each portrait was pinned on to the soldier's hometown location; as the death toll rose, the installation at the Saatchi Gallery will now instead follow a chronological order, drawing attention to seemingly endless conflict.
American Servicemen and Women... is an ongoing project which will not be complete until American involvement in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan ends. The work is constantly developed up to and including the day of the exhibition installation. Drawings hung with white pins indicate soldiers who died prior to the installation at Saatchi Gallery, red pins denote men and women who lost their lives during the making of this exhibition. Prince monitors the website www.militarytimes.com several times a week, meticulously collecting information and making drawings for every update; those without photos are represented by an empty square labeled with the individual's name and other biographical information.
"The numbers kept coming up in the daily reports. Five here, fourteen there, one day after another. And then the growing figure mounting to over a thousand. Peripherally it was ever-present, but still only an abstraction. It was no longer enough to know how many. I needed to see pictures of them, to familiarize myself just a tiny bit more with what was happening far from my warm home. And it really isn't much. It too is a mere summary, just one more step beyond bare numbers. Yet for me it is something. It means spending time with each one. It is looking into their eyes to see who is now gone. It is following the line of their brow and trying to perceive the expression there. It is a visual and visceral exploration of these individuals by way of their faces. It is my own eyes and my hand tracing out some very slight acquaintance with what's occurring. As an investigation it is little, and it is incomplete. It addresses only the Americans who have died. Neither the Iraqis nor the Afghanis are pictured. However, this gap in my own representation does not symbolize any deliberate or meaningful exclusion. I feel deep sadness for the people of these nations." Emily Prince
Emily Prince is an artist based in San Francisco. She holds a double degree in Fine Art and Psychology from Stanford University and is currently enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at the University of California, Berkeley.
Although the Iraq war officially began March 20, 2003, Prince did not conceive of her project until November 3, 2004; one day after President George W. Bush was elected to his second term in office. For more information about the project, please visit www.theamericanservicemenandwomen.com.