Story by Molly McQueen
I have been working on the nationally touring mural exhibit Windows and Mirrors: Reflections on the War in Afghanistan since last May. I arrived in the Chicago office in the midst of the planning process. I was a participant in meetings in which we discussed the title of the exhibit as well as what text should be included on the information panels. One of my first jobs was to receive each panel, unrolling the individual pieces of art, repairing some that had been damaged in transport, and carefully storing them until they were ready to be sent to the opening location in Philadelphia. From there I helped to edit the mural catalog containing a photo of each piece along with the artist’s statement and biography.
Before I knew it, the exhibit was opening for the first time at the Arch Street Meeting House. Unfortunately I was unable to attend. However, I watched from a far. I viewed photos online, read news articles, and watched videos of individual’s reactions. I’ve watched from a distance while the exhibit traveled from Philadelphia to New York, to LA, to North Carolina, and Indiana until finally I saw it for the first time in Chicago. I’ve come to intimately know these pieces of art, their painters, and the story behind the exhibit. Even though I’ve seen these pieces hundreds of times, as I walked into the gallery to see the exhibit hanging all together my eyes started to tear. This is my work, our work. This is what is possible when so many people who care about a topic come together.
When each piece of work can stand alone as a symbol of destruction, devastation, resilience, and hope, but together are a powerful and poignant look at the experiences of war and how we as a nation and individuals fit into the machine of war. I am grateful to everyone who participated to make such a powerful statement. I am grateful to AFSC for letting me be involved in such an amazing experience. Though all who participated have different experiences and views of war, all believe that there is another way, a better way. We have come together to collaborate to create something big, something important. I hope that this exhibit continues in it’s original form as well as the smaller replica version that we have started to display at smaller locations like churches, college campus, and libraries.