In World War I, for every battlefield death, approximately two soldiers were wounded. Today, in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are about 16 soldiers wounded for each who dies. Many of them have suffered serious injuries that will alter the rest of their lives.
And yet, says Pueblo artist Sally Lincoln, we almost never hear about these men and women.
"Of course, people are talking about the deaths — which are significant," she says. "But I think the real social legacy of the war will be the wounded."
Lincoln, also a sculptor who dabbles in other mediums (she and co-exhibitors 38 Degrees Latitude earned a nod for Best Film at Pueblo's First Annual 24-Hour Film Festival in 2008), intends for her oil series, Portrait of an American Soldier by Sally Lincoln, to convey that "there's a higher price tag on the war."
The show will hang at Pueblo's Sangre de Cristo Arts Center through early May as part of a larger effort titled Now & Then: Cultural History Captured by Artists Past and Present.
Portrait gathers 30 of Lincoln's 160 works featuring wounded active-duty soldiers, most of whom Lincoln painted while they recovered at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas in 2008. The series builds off a previous effort in 2007, in which she painted World War II and Korea vets at Denver's Veteran's Administration Medical Center. She's also captured faces across the Caribbean, in post-Katrina New Orleans and at a refugee camp in Kenya's northwest corner.
In the soldiers' portraits, coarse, colorful strokes give way to lifelike expressions of apathy, despair and even hope. Lincoln hopes gallery guests will view the likenesses in a non-politicized way.
The reason the Sangre's gotten only a fraction of the whole series: Paintings are on loan from the subjects, each shipped in from wherever the soldier happens to be now. Lincoln originally gave her paintings to the soldiers, keeping only a photograph for herself.
"Frankly, some of them aren't doing so well," she says.
One soldier recently wrote her with news that he was having his 16th surgery for burns. Fortunately, she says, others have retired from the service and are enjoying children, grandchildren and civilian life.