My sincere thanks to everyone that's contributed to the project! If you're checking it out for the first time, I hope you'll take a moment to watch the video and read about my plans. You may also enjoy a recent CNN.com feature on the project! I hope you'll become a backer and help me continue my work!
"This shows exactly how we are feeling...but where is Barbie®?"
-Critique from two young Palestinian girls, East Jerusalem
The WAR-TOYS project seeks to explore war from the perspective of children living in its day-to-day reality. Because cognitive ability is often ahead of language development, children typically share their experiences and cope with associated feelings through indirect methods of communication, such as art and play. As a result, their personal accounts of war often go unseen, even when studying its affects. Through WAR-TOYS, I use a collaborative process to unlock and articulate children’s experiences, turning the language of play into serious dialog.
Employing principles of expressive art therapy, my process begins with observation and guided interaction with children under the care of humanitarian organizations operating in areas of active conflict. Specialized therapists conduct art-based interviews on my behalf, inviting children to draw pictures about their lives and experiences. The resulting illustrations serve as art direction and basis for photographic exploration.
Toy-surrogates are placed and posed in accordance to the children’s descriptions, integrated through forced perspective into the actual locations where described events occurred. Commentary is given on socioeconomic conditions through the use of locally acquired toys, seen against the conditions in which these children live. The resulting photographs provide an interpretive document of witnessed events and context for the children’s accounts.
My goal for WAR-TOYS is to change lives. By engaging children in the creative process, I intend to challenge individual boys and girls to perceive themselves and their world in a different way. I seek to empower children through an approach that gives context and validation to their personal perceptions of war.
With the resulting artwork, I hope to foster communication and understanding across all borders and beliefs. When complete, the series will consist of 35-50 photographs, accompanied by the children's drawings that served as direction and inspiration. I will be exhibiting the series internationally at museums, university galleries, and other cultural venues.
Work from the proof-of-concept series will debut in November 2011 at an exhibition in Cape Town presented by Freedom to Create. In addition, WAR-TOYS has been publicly commended alongside projects by fellow artists including Ai Wei Wei and Roxana Saberi.
In the Fall of 2012, I'll be exhibiting and lecturing at St. Lawrence University in New York. More opportunities to exhibit the work are currently being discussed and pursued, but first, I have to finish production of the series.
WAR-TOYS is intended to be neutral, exploring and collaboratively articulating children's accounts of war regardless of race, religion, and nationality. The project's current focus is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The materials seen here were produced during a proof-of-concept journey to the region in early 2011. Despite best efforts, I was only able to work with local Arab and Palestinian organizations, and the artwork thus far reflects this. However, it is my intention to present the children's unfiltered perspective, including any nationalistic and political viewpoints that are culturally present.
When WAR-TOYS begins full production in the Winter of 2011 / 2012, I will be working with children under the care of humanitarian organizations operating in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank. I will be spending at least twelve weeks in the region, working with children from Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Arab communities.
The production process seeks to engage Israeli and Palestinian youth as much as possible, even beyond the art therapy based collaborations. Young adults with an interest in media production are hired as assistants. Most received care as children from the humanitarian organizations with whom I work. Their knowledge of local communities is invaluable, and I hope that their experiences on the production will help put them on a path towards careers that fuel their individual passions.
Completing WAR-TOYS will not be possible without your support. For the project, I must travel to areas of conflict and immerse myself in diverse communities, working with humanitarian organizations to observe and collaborate with local children. It will take more time and resources than most independent artists can bear.
I will be relying on the generous support of patrons and benefactors like you to complete the project. Donations will fund all stages of production, paying for expenses such as:
- Local Crew (assistants, fixers, translators, etc.)
- Local Travel (mass transit, taxis, etc.)
- Equipment / Expendables / Digital Storage
- Locally bought toys
- Art therapy supplies for children
- Insurance (via Reporters Without Borders)
- Food / Basic needs
Every $20,000 that I'm able to raise buys me approximately three weeks of time in the Middle East to work. While it'd be amazing to raise enough to complete the twelve week project in one, extended trip, I'll be grateful for any opportunity to continue my work one step at a time.
I believe in this project, enough to empty my savings, max-out credit cards, and put wedding plans on hold. I was fortunate enough to have these resources (and a supportive fiancé) to get me this far, but I need your help to finish.
I've pulled together some incentives from $5 to $5000 that I hope will express my gratitude for your support.
A special, limited edition of 50 folios was created to help fundraise for the continued production of the WAR-TOYS project. Each folio contains six, 8x10 prints: three toy photographs from the initial month-long trip to the Middle East and the three corresponding children's drawings that each were based upon.
Conceived and built by fellow artist and Grammy-award-winning package designer Hugh Brown, the folios are housed in surplus, French military medical kits, specially repurposed. Each one is unique, inside and out. Their heavy steel cases have been filled with pieces of 7200 plastic army men, suspended in resin to form shelves for the archival prints. Each print from the edition of 50 is signed and numbered on the back. Each folio case is numbered with an engraved metal plate and includes a Certificate of Authenticity.
The WAR-TOYS English, Arabic, and Hebrew logo features prominently on some of the incentives, including vinyl stickers and t-shirts:
Signed copies of my monograph Art-Toys are available at a 15% discount, including shipping:
Through Kickstarter, I'm offering the last remaining copies of the Art-Toys special edition, signed by eighteen world-renowned artists: Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Hugh Brown, Luke Chueh, Lili Chin, Bob Dob, Frank Kozik, Joe Ledbetter, Patrick Ma, Mark Nagata, Craig Perkins, Mark Ryden, Greg “Craola” Simkins, Scott Tolleson, Michelle Valigura, Amanda Visell, and Yoskay Yamamoto. This will likely be the last opportunity to acquire one outside of the secondary market:
I sincerely thank you for taking the time to learn about my project. I hope you'll consider becoming a backer and allow my work to continue.
I'd also like to thank the various humanitarian organizations and individual staff members who have graciously offered their support and encouragement for the WAR-TOYS project. These dedicated women and men make a tremendous impact on the lives of local children, organically working to promote peace by ending cycles of trauma-fueled violence.
Thanks to the Spafford Children's Center, Dr. Jantien Dajani, Marwan Khadder, The Ibdaa Cultural Center, and Aysar Khaled.
And I thank in advance the NGO's that care for the Israeli and Palestinian children that I'll be working with going forward. I've enjoyed getting to know staff members through conversations and planning for my next trip.
My sincere gratitude goes to the various supporters and friends of the project, including: Paul Vester, Irene Kotlarz, Mika Fowler, Mickey Babcock, Sharon McCarty, Hugh Brown, Bill Colitre, Andrew Miano, Joseph McCarty, Catherine Tedford, Carole Mathey, Prologue Pictures, Kasim Al-Mashat, Dr. Judith Rubin, Dr. Julia Byers, Montaser Alul, Miruna Garabet, Slien Joia, Julie Land, Yousef Hammad, Louie Zaza, Paulina Ptaszyńska, Helen Hood Scheer, Kevin Kupelian, Jeffery Doe, PhotoFlex, Jaron Schneider, Manfrotto-Gitzo, Michael Ford, and my entire family.
Extra thanks goes to Co-Director Kurt Mattila and Producers Alex Dervin, Suzie Gilbert, and Rob Wilson. Their brilliant contributions can be seen in the video above.
For more information, I invite you to visit the WAR-TOYS website.