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Is Rita Barnard the Only Dallas Artist
Concerned About The War?

Rita Barnard - Tribute to the Fallen

Rita Barnard - Tribute to the Fallen (detail), 2007
mixed media installation in the Bath House.
Text under each figure is soldier's name, age,
cause and date of death and home town.

This work of art is at least the third time Rita Barnard has used toy soldiers to voice to her feelings about the people killed in the American War on Iraq. The whole of it is in her and Greg Stinson's show at the Bath House Cultural Center now (See the Calendar for more information).

Many of us remember playing war with little molded plastic or tin soldiers. We have deep, tactile memories how they feel, how their arms and legs bend and the expressions on their faces — as well as the meanings that have, in the years since, attached themselves to these powerful little symbols.

Regardless which side we were on, those who have experienced war up close know the horrific realities behind our childhood fantasies. Everybody else has seen it on TV. Toy soldiers tie our childhood dreams into grown-up nightmares, making them deeply ironic symbols for war.

When we see these little figures forever frozen shooting or running or launching grenades, we remember our childhoods. Then those once-positive feelings are washed over by reality. Makes for fascinating increments of art. Her mediums may be mixed, but Rita's messages are not.

To link to the stories where these images
originally appeared on
click the images on this page.

Rita Barnard - Rise Up, 2005
Installation with toy soldiers
Mixed media
12 x 3 x 3 feet


detail of the same piece

Her Tribute to the Fallen, 2007 fills the long wall in the Bath House's main gallery and includes more, blank rectangles on the right for the inevitable, additional names of the fallen.

In the 20 years since Maya Ying Lin's feelings-provoking tribute to the soldiers of the Viet Nam war, names on a wall have become compelling, and Rita's recent addition of that fierce piece of visual information makes this year's work all the stronger.

Rita often incorporates text and headlines in her art, but rarely so simply and succinctly as this name, rank and serial number clarity. After harping that artists need to get their feelings about the war out through their art, it is heartening to find one artist who not only channels her anti-war views but doesn't let up.

When I told Rita about this story, she wrote, "The war is something I care about, or rather it's the men and women that are dying and their families. It is heartbreaking to me to think about the sacrifice, loss and suffering that is behind each and every one of the figures in this piece. I am looking forward to the day that I do not feel compelled to create these memorials, or the day there is nothing to add."

Rita Barnard - Tribute to the Fallen,
2004 - mixed media (detail)

If you have put your feelings (hawk or dove) about the war in your art, I'd like to see it. Email me to find out how. DO NOT SEND ATTACHMENTS of any kind without permission!