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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Thank You to All

Widowsweave: Lines in the Sand - 43 Days has met its goal with 436,913 lines drawn in the sand, snow, sleet, rain, mud and gravel to remember widows in Iraq -and who are refugees now all over the world - as well as to commemorate the killed and wounded of that 43 day war in 1991 that started my long artistic relationship with justice and Iraq.  A deep, grateful, heartfelt thank you to all who helped complete this project by making it out to Chicago's frozen beaches as well as those who have supported previous Lines in the Sand performances with advice, documentation and performance.  Thanks to Dinah Ryan and Principia College for allowing me to engage students on and off campus with the events of last weekend.
Special thanks go to my colleagues Susan and Shalaka who are there when doubts arise.  Extra love and gratitude for the friendship and participation from Jaber Alturfee, a true friend and companion in this project.  And most of all, as always, all my love and debt of gratitude goes to Mary my wife and best friend.

Final Day - Day 43 - Greenwood St. Beach

This last day had heartfelt guests drawing lines in a soft snow.  There was a web, flowers, chains, and patterns.  We had branches from the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and from up and down the Chicago lakefront.  We discussed the meaning of the number 3 million, counting of lines, prayer and the significance of the 43 days.  The overall goal was met for this extended performance.  I felt so exhilarated as these last few days saw the completion of 430,000 lines, but also my freedom to schedule other activities.  I also know that the last few days signaled the anniversary of the ground assault of Iraq nineteen years ago including the carnage on the retreating troops.  I suppose that our troops felt the same exhilaration as their task was completed.  I think that their must be an excitement now, with seven days until the Iraqi elections.

I remember the day our ground troops entered Iraq.  As I recall, the military would only let one CNN reporter go in with the troops.  He was on the Highway of Death and interviewed a private the first day who said that he didn't know what to do beacause they were supposed to gather bodies to identify but that there was a finger here, a head over there and a foot down the road.  I never heard that quote again.

We have left no dead, rather lines of memorial - counting the survivors who would otherwise not be counted in any way, hoping for better things: for change with the election, for an end to corruption, sectarianism, oppression, poverty and occupation.  We are hoping above all for peace.  Widowsweave will continue with other events to raise awareness throughout the next year. Let us hope that these performances realize themselves in actual change for these women, their families, communities and their country.

13,912 lines, webs, chains

Wafaa Bilal

Wafaa Bilal's new performance ...and Counting is coming up next week - a 24hr performance of 105,000 tatoo dots to represent the deaths on all sides of the Iraq conflict.  Check it out and donate if you can to a scholarship fund for Iraqi youth.

Week 6 totals

Week 6 totals:

Day 42
total - 19,733
Day 41
total - 8,200
Day 40
total - 7,400
Day 39
total - 9,000
Day 38
total - 7,324
Day 37 total - 2,050
Day 36 total - 4,638
Total - 58,345

43 Days performance total: 423,001 lines
(goal 430,000)
Widowsweave: Lines in the Sand total: 446,141 lines
(goal 3,000,000)

Wk 5 total: 67,286
Wk 4 total: 30,110
Wk 3 total: 71,900
Wk 2 total: 85,810
Wk 1 total: 109,550
Previous Lines in the Sand: 23,140

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 42 Montrose Beach meets North-East Wind

Today was much colder than I expected, and proportionally more difficult to draw lines in the snow/sand.  My implement this day was a wonderful tool for interesting marks - sometimes check-marks, sometimes x's, sometimes double lines, sometimes single tapered lines.  I explained to Bryan how counting double lines, or not counting them is an existential dilemma.  Bryan got a cell call that was longer than he'd expected which is how it goes sometimes -art and life imitating each other.  Whether it's counting double lines, taking a call, losing count, counting by nines or elevens instead of tens by accident or writing the numbers in the sand/snow to keep track - all have parallels in the economy of war and oppression.  Leaving out the count, exaggerating the count, being distracted, approximating using extrapolation, caring about every detail or being satisfied with a close representation - all have been carried out over and over again when accounting for dead, wounded, care for wounded and family, widows, orphans, dispalced, refugees...

Eden concentrated on tilling motions, and also on the resulting lines which he thought resembled train tracks.  He created tracks that meandered around acres of beach ending at a tall steel light post, like the hub or station.

Jaber brought his nephew, a recent refugee who has been in Chicago for only 2 days.  He wisely took stock of the wind and returned to the car with apologies.  No sense in being out there without proper clothes for this weather.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 41 - North Ave. Beach

My larger heavier stick with a bend at the end made for a challenging time, along with the strong north wind and varying thicknesses of snow.  The end of the branch had a unique hook to it which demanded certain gestures on my part.  some times I would press down and the hook end would stamp a line.  this branch was not to be dragged easily, but at most angles the end would make a two-three inch line.  Turned over- so that the bent part of the branch defied gravity and went straight into the air - the hook would dig a little hole and pull out sand and snow or, if the snow was deeper and of the right consistancy, would simply pierce the snow.  Stamping alludes to various official functions, keeping government record of death, of those who need aid, of discrimination.  Hooking and digging out can be a cleansing or a torturous separation - or a weaving function.  Piercing speaks for itself.

Shalaka,  Sharvari and I  compiled 8,200 lines.

Oak St. Beach - Gold Coast Chicago - Day 40

I began each row as in shadow, went into the bright sun, and concluded in shadow.  As the sun descended and the shadows shifted, the beginning and ends of my lines altered dramatically.  Some rows ended at the waters edge near the boisterous waves, others stopped mid snow-filled-beach as the long shadows of skyscrapers joined forces with each new angle.

I thought of the temporal nature of our existence, and the evaporation of evidence.
Am I a Borofsky mechanical man?

Heart shaped cuniforms.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Calumet Park - Day 39 - 9,000

I had to use the branch I picked up yesterday at Gillson because it was so long and forked at the end that I was afraid that someone would poke their eye getting in and out of the van.  Is this analogous to anything in Iraq? Maybe some of the force used (cluster bombs, stealth fighters, depleted uranium bombs) was used because it had to be used.  They were to strong, too dangerous, to expensive or high profile not to use.

I don't know - but I do have a friend who was sad that he had been promoted to trainer just before Operation Desert Storm and never had the opportunity to fly a sortie in his bomber. We
are trained to do something, or we have acquired the right tool for something, and that training or tool wants to be used.  the more we have invested in the training/tool, or the more in our way it is, the sooner we are likely to put it to use.
Nearby steel mills remind me of the shipping and oil that passes through this area that has fueled Chicago since its founding.   Protecting oil is why we engaged Iraqi troops twenty years ago.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Gillson Park Beach - Wilmette

I chose the cleanest path of snow, along the edge of a sand-bar drop off of a few feet.  I went back and forth, blazing a new path in the snow, reaching further and further out to create an encircling community of lines. Toward the end of the trail, the lines obliterated an earlier path of footprints.  Maybe the new path will direct people through the center, causing people to walk through the center, surrounded by the marks made to remember 7,324 widows - though they couldn't possibly know that.  I feel that the group of lines form a cohesive body, and the path represents movement, direction. 

Some of the last lines resembled birds in flight.  On the otherside, the last few rows of lines caused a lot of turmoil, kicking up sand into the snow and softening the edge of the tiny bluff.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rainbow Beach - 75th St. Day 37

I drew many lines in an free form spiral shape and circled them to connect them as one - one cell, one organism.  I then connected them to the city and the city to them via a path of lines along the beach to the horizon and back, where the ghostly silhouette of Chicago hung below the dark foreboding snow clouds miles to the north.  It was a strand, an umbilical cord, a lifeline to civilization from the wild, windswept beach with only the traces of animal track braking the faultless crust of snow.
2,050 lines

Week 6 Schedule - Final Performances

Week 6 Schedule

Monday 2/22/10 - 2:15-3pm - Rainbow Beach, 75th St and lakefront

Tuesday 2/23/10 - 3-4pm - Gillson Park, Wilmette (South end)

Wednesday 2/24/10 -3:30-4 Calumet Beach, 99th-96th and lakefront, Chicago

Thursday 2/25/10 - 3-3:45 Oak St. Beach

Friday 2/26/10 -1:30-2:30pm North Ave. Beach

Saturday 2/27/10 -2:30-4 Montrose Beach

Sunday 2/28/10 - 2-3pm Greenwood St., Evanson
Contact: consciousv@gmail.com

Week 5 totals

Week 5 totals:

Day 35 total - 2,340
Day 34 total - 9,046
Day 33 total - 0
Day 32 total - 2,000 
Day 31 total - 15,400 
Day 30 total - 10,500
Day 29
total - 28,000 lines
Wk 5 total: 67,286

43 Days performance total: 364,656 lines
(goal 430,000)
Widowsweave: Lines in the Sand total: 387,796 lines
(goal 3,000,000)

Wk 4 total: 30,110
Wk 3 total: 71,900
Wk 2 total: 85,810
Wk 1 total: 109,550
Previous Lines in the Sand: 23,140

Principia College

In a cold rain on the campus of Principia College, students, faculty and community members join the artist in commemorating Iraqi widows in silent, thoughtful drawing of lines.  I drew a quilt with alternating patterns.  Others drew interlocking circles that gradually freed up and seemed to take flight, an intricately patterned figure, and patchwork of lines and crossed out lines, thin lines and thick, straight and curvilinear.  One woman drew an empty box, "preserving the negative."  It was very quiet, peaceful, somber, respectful.

4,638 lines