A mural depicting an eye has given Southampton Intermediate School students a glimpse into Afghanistan’s rugged mountains, patchwork of tribal cultures and sacred caves—and the war that overshadows that all.
Every day after school for two weeks in May, a dozen fifth- and sixth-graders researched Afghan cultures, discussed what it would be like to live in the war zone and then painted a panel under the tutelage of Deborah Lukasik of L’Atelier 5, a Southampton art studio. Ms. Lukasik’s sister-in-law, Laura Swan, an art teacher in Long Beach, got the opportunity to participate in the Afghan Memorial Mural Project and offered to share it with Ms. Lukasik. The project is the brainchild of the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization in Philadelphia whose mission is to advance social justice, peace and humanitarian service.
The students’ 6½-foot by 4-foot painting will now join a public exhibit in memory of Afghan civilian casualties of the ongoing war. The traveling exhibit will feature 50 murals of the same size by artists across the United States and France—an artistic memorial to human toll of the war in Afghanistan—and Ms. Lukasik is hoping that some East End galleries will be able to display it since her studio is too small.
“I’m always amazed when I work with kids. It’s so deep and so rewarding. We could have done it ourselves, but that’s not sharing our love of art with the world,” Ms. Lukasik said of she and Ms. Swan. “It’s art as a language, not just for pretty pictures.”
Ms. Lukasik, who opened her studio in December, visited the local middle school and found 12 students who committed themselves to the project, for which they received no academic credit. Erin Morgani, Luis Jacob Villalobos Patino, Miranda Maloney, Ana O’Shaughnessy, Ariel Tello, Stephany Quizhpilema, Siena Gates, Myana Smith, Magdalena Schneiderman, Robert Murphy, Elijah Cuffee and Taylor Della-Volpe were 12 very different artists with 12 very different ideas, Ms. Lukasik said, but they managed to arrive at a final version they all liked.
In the local students’ painting, a warm palette of reds, yellows and oranges color the iris of the eye, symbolizing awareness and introspection. The palette is intended to suggest that an Afghan mother and young child are enveloped in flames both literal and figurative. The cooler shades of blue and violet that surround the iris are supposed to evoke night sky or calming waters to temper the flames of war and bring hope and peace, according to Ms. Lukasik.
The mother and child walk toward a dimly lit village, dressed in traditional garb with their backs to the viewer. The young child pointing to the first star of the evening is a sign of hope.
“Hope is difficult to hold onto during times of turmoil, especially in as helpless a situation as war,” Ms. Lukasik said.
The painting includes a literary element as well, with words in white written above and below the central figures. It reads, in part, “we should all care for the innocent people who are dying.”
“The way those words are weaving through the sky, it signifies movement and lightness,” remarked Ms. Lukasik.
According to the AFSC website, those who feel their communities might be interested in hosting the exhibit should e-mail Mary Zerkel of the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.