Widowsweave is an awareness raising series of performances highlighting the conditions of Iraqi Widows who often struggle to acquire even basic necessities such as clean water or adequate shelter. Through artistic durational activities the artist and public participants mark 3,000,000 lines representing the number of Iraqi widows from 30 years of war, tyranny and sanctions.


Kevin Valentine will have three new pieces in the Faculty Show at North Central College, Naperville. The reception is April 8th, from 6-8

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lines in the Sand

I drew 1000 lines in the sand, starting with a short, back-breaking stick. I traded up twice to get to two and a half feet - still very hard to draw in the sand. I was making the lines about sixteen paces long.

One family walked by and I asked them if they saw a longer stick on their walk, could they bring it to me.

The guy on the dune buggy rolled up & over when I was at 314 lines. White hair, broad chested man, taking $5 from visitors to the private beach, but Oxbow is free. I told him I was drawing 3 million lines in the sand for the widows in Iraq. He said, "Well... it's about time somebody did something for all we've done to them. Did you know that those teenage girls are forced into prostitution." We talked some more; he said that he doesn't usually talk politics, but this really bothers him.

I get emotional doing these pieces. I almost teared up when I was only in the 200's, thinking about all those widows. That sounds really cliche, but it's true that these meditative explorations into repetitive labor focus the mind and body on the at-hand task in a way that creates a real life cathartic connection.

3,000,000 marks is a whole lot more than the 3500 chalk marks I've been doing, especially if I try to do them one at a time. The first ones I did were about sixteen paces, dragging the stick behind, bent over painfully. It became a little easier when the family came back with a longer stick - actually they brought two. They took my picture, wished me luck and told me they know I would make it and when they hear that I finish a year from now, they'd have the picture from my first day. Emotional again.

At least this saved my back, but my quads and calves were sore by 700 or so. I switched to a side step which changed the gesture from dragging to sweeping - how futile to sweep sand with a stick. Bedouins have sand floors. There are up to 5 million Bedouins of various tribes in Iraq. They were killed in large numbers early in this last war.

I spent about 2hrs. 40 mins. on 1000 lines and 30 more writing so far. As the guy on the dune buggy said on his way back, "I've been calculation and you're never going to make it like that." True. I figure that at this rate it would take 8-10 yrs. But shorter strokes representing other domestic chores will speed ti up. I will try to resist the mass approach (e.g. using a rake), but again as this man said, "It's the gesture that's important."

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