It's Not Over Yet
A video snapshot of Harriet Diamond's anti-war work
Most good art is made out of love and a personal commitment to some subject. My reflections on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have an overtly political theme and are expressionistic in the sense of the political expressionists from Daumier to Ben Shahn to Kathe Kollwitz.
The first mini-installation in this portfolio, No War — from NYC to Northampton, celebrates the many anti-war demonstrations in New York City and Washington DC. The piece combines elements of relief and full sculpture. Fierce and individualized, the marchers carry signs and march purposefully on as police on horseback harass them. New York City unfolds in the background. Like medieval and history painting, I narrate a period in history using a culminating event as the central focus. I’ve tried to capture the human side of the equation — our voices, our hope, our pageantry, and our struggle.
In the sculpture Iraq Vigil, all of the figures are tiny portraits of the folks who stand ‘on the line’ every Saturday in our town, as in so many towns … and for so many years! It interests me that strong, committed individuals can light a fire that spreads. In Iraq Vigil, you will see Frances Crowe, now 88 years old, our local leader speaking to two soldiers. From one person’s work and commitment so much can grow. Ideas about the worth of the individual and individual responsibility, the connection between leadership and community, and the importance of small places on the world stage run through the mini-installation.
The newer relief sculptures, Big Send Off and Return, juxtapose the costs of war and the hype of false patriotism. Big Send Off depicts Bush and his political cronies reviewing the troops. A brass band plays, and congressmen make deals with corporate bigwigs as brigade after brigade of soldiers marches off to war. The companion piece to Big Send Off is Return, a somber, sculpted wall relief. In this piece, a C5A aircraft, looking like the angel of death, is unloading coffins at a closed military installation. These two pieces juxtapose the hype of false patriotism and the human cost of war. I use caricature and narrative to tell the story of this war, and repetition of form to drive home the relentless nature of its truth.
All of the sculptures combine elements of relief and full sculpture and are painted ceramic sculpture and wood. They are generally large, overall 7 to 8 feet wide and 7 to 8 feet high, and highly detailed with many figures and much activity. I call the pieces which combine full sculpture and relief mini-installation, because like installation sculpture they are meant to make the audience a nearly physical part of the artwork.
I have always worked with subject matter dear to my heart and over time my work has become more political. For me art is nothing if it cannot connect me to my deepest hopes. The more serious my content and subject matter have become, the lighter my working means has become. A note of caricature has crept into the work. Despite my interest in political art, I shy away from the heavy handed and the didactic.
In the last years I have shown my large and small pieces at a number of venues. Recently I have shown bronze pieces at Brookgreen Garden in South Carolina, and the National Sculpture Society and National Arts Club in New York City. I have installed one of my lifesize scenes in the main lobby of the Norfolk International Airport. I have been invited to install work in Massachusetts at the Fitchburg Museum, the Pittsfield Museum, and the Springfield Museum, and at Chesterwood, the National Trust in Great Barrington. In New York State I have installed my work at the Albany Museum.
– Harriet Diamond