At Moe’s in Berkeley, I bought a used copy of Joe Sacco’s Safe Area Gorazde. (I guess there’s some irony here, my last post talked about getting rid of stuff). I’d been looking for it for a while, since I was reluctant to buy a new copy. Along with his “Palestine“, these are two must-haves in any graphic-novel collection. I usually don’t like war stories, but war is a fact of life now, and even those of us snug and safe in civilian life must be aware of wars don’t simply end when the last shot has been fired.
There’s a little irony more irony: Before browsing at Moe’s (because I had time left on the parking meter), I had gone to the Berkeley Art Museum to see the Botero exhibit “The Abu Ghraib Series“.
I first saw Botero’s paintings actually in posters at the Reprint Mint (also on Telegraph Ave) when I was in college. His ‘gimmick’ is the easily-recognisable pudgy, rotund human figures; they’re usually dressed in what I think of as 1930s or 1940s styles. Men wear suits. Women are always in dresses. I seriously thought he lived and produced during that period. I was so surprised when I found out he was still living, and he’s in his 70’s today.
His Abu Ghraib series apparently were inspired his outrage before he even saw the photos of those prison situations; he read about them in the New Yorker magazine. In these paintings, both the prison guards and the prisoners are portrayed, in the typical roly-poly Botero style. But unlike the ‘idyllic’ scenes of his conventional paintings, like couples, dancing or walking hand in hand, these show different configurations of abuse, torment and humiliation. Prisoners are blindfolded, forced to don bras and bikins, and beaten and sodomized.
By the end of so many paintings, the glut of abuse was numbing. But I came away with a solid realization of how the physical wounds of those war detainees may heal, but the emotional and psychiatric scars will remain for a long time.
The aftermath of war is and always will be a sad and scary unavoidable thing.