Not Enemies, but Children

NY TImes, December 26, 2003

Over the last two years several art shows have featured children's reactions to the war on terror. The exhibition at the Puffin Room in SoHo continues that trend, but with an important difference: these drawings are from Iraq.
Titled "Shocked and Awed," the display includes more than 70 pictures created by Baghdad students not long after the initial combat ended. Created by children ranging from 7- or 8-year-olds to teenagers, the works portray tanks and bombers, sometimes with inscriptions in Arabic or broken English.

Whatever your opinion of the war, the art is often devastating. In one drawing a missile hits a house while a couple and a boy stand by, tears running down their faces. In another an unidentified soldier dominates, while a girl weeps. The Arabic writing translates as "Where is my dad?" Still others imagine peace: in one, American and Iraqi flags anchor smiling clouds at opposite ends of a rainbow.
Americans appear as heroes or villains. One picture shows a United States helicopter pouring water on drooping flowers under the words "No, Sadam. Yes, Boosh." At the other end of the spectrum is a huge American tank placed between smaller ones from Israel and Iraq. Red bullets rain everywhere, as women and children lie dead.
While such work raises disturbing issues, nothing is inappropriate for the young artists' American peers. (An accompanying video with gruesome war images has been replaced with a less graphic documentary.) Organized by Carl Rosenstein, the gallery's director, the show will travel to the Puffin Cultural Forum in Teaneck, N.J., (Jan. 10 to Feb. 28) and to other cities. It emphasizes that in any war, children are caught in the crossfire. As a message on one picture states, "We are not gilty."
"Shocked and Awed," through Sunday at the Puffin Room, 435 Broome Street (between Broadway and Crosby Street), SoHo, (212) 343-2881. Hours: today, 1 to 7 p.m.; the weekend, noon to 8 p.m. Free.