Kumiko S. McKee - In This Life Images - Novus Ordo Mundi

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Novus Ordo Mundi
Oil painting with newspaper collage on masonite
60 x 40 inches
2004 - 2006


Statement for “Novus Ordo Mundi”
September 2006

One of my paintings titled “Novus Ordo Mundi” contains two portraits of soldiers—one in front of an American flag on the left and a portrait of the U.S. President George W. Bush and Osama bin Ladin on the right. The entire image looks like a patriotic painting, but the real intention of the image is very different from the first glance. The image contains some symbolic elements that are hidden in the image by distorting the perspective or mirroring the image.

One of the hidden symbolic elements in my painting that you can see is an unidentified object, which is pulling on the neck of President George W. Bush (Detail A). You can see the undistorted image of the skull & the numbers 322 when you see it from a different angle such as upper left corner (Detail B). This method for distorting an image is called “Anamorphic Perspective” and was used in the panting “The Ambassadors” by Hans Holbein in 1533 (Incidentally, the earliest know example of Anamorphic Perspective is the drawing “Leonardo’s Eye” by Leonardo da Vinci in 1485). The undistorted original image of the skull & the numbers 322 is the emblem of the “Skull and Bones”, which is a secret society based at Yale University.

The number 32,111 painted on the lower center of the image is the total estimated death toll on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 in 2006 and includes all of the victims, Iraqi civilians, victims of the terrorist attacks in New York, London, Madrid, and Bali as well as all the solders who lost their life (estimated by the Daily Mail, 11th September 2006 – but experts say it could be three times higher). I painted it on a collage of newspaper articles clipped out and pasted on the surface that shows names and the number of American casualties.

The left side of the image contains portraits of two soldiers that are painted on a collage of newspaper articles with stories about the American and other coalition troops that were killed as well as the death toll and some names of the Americans who were killed in the war. The images of the soldiers exhibit their confidence and belief in the mission while facing the realities of war – one expresses fear of war while the other looks on with hope despite the tenseness and chaos of the situation.

I also painted two portraits of the well-known leaders (U.S. President George W. Bush and Osama bi Ladin) on the right as the ringleaders who have the responsibility for all of the death. The portrait of President George W. Bush is based on a picture of his reaction and expression when he received the tragic news of 9/11 attack while sitting in front of a class of children listening to them read – his eyes were fixed on children’s book, and he continued to listening peacefully even after he heard the news of the attack. I don’t know what was behind his expression and calmness in the situation, but it left a striking impression on me, so I painted the portrait of President Bush with his back to the two solders who were fighting for their country believing in their leader.

There are so many uncertain points of views about 9/11 and the war includes numerous conspiracy theories. Nobody knows the real reasons or motivations for going to war, but there are certainly a lot of conversations. I included symbols in my painting that represent different discussions that people are having concerning the war. These represent unsure, mysterious things. Personally, I don’t believe anything that doesn’t have proper evidence, but there are some coincidences that make one think. One thing is certain--the two leaders on the right side of the painting have the responsibly for these wars. The result of their decisions such as the terrorist act on 9/11 and the Iraq war has caused a lot of death and suffering, not only for the soldiers and families but also for countless civilians.

Kumiko S. McKee