In July, 2006, the City of Bellingham,WA granted me a permit to produce an art installation
along the sidewalks of 27 linear blocks of the Downtown core.

On September 10, 2006, a community of people gathered together and drew
2,664 life-size chalk outlines of human beings.

Each outline symbolized a U.S. serviceperson who has given his or her life in the Iraq war.
The installation is a tribute to and a recognition of their and their families' sacrifices.
Just how many others have died in this war is unknown.
But 42 Months is a tribute to them as well.

It was my intention to bring together many different individuals to help all of us
visualize the enormity of this loss, both as a community and a nation.

We created art---and community.

Rose Anne


What follows are the comments and responses from some of the participants,
together with images of the process and the product.


"It is so easy to forget, while living in a place as peaceful as B’ham,
what is going on in other parts of the world and how these events
are impacting us. And, how we are connected to these events.
We need these visual reminders, very powerful."

"As I drew, I would actually have the sense that
I was outlining an actual dead young person
lying there in camo-gear, and it made me feel
a strong need to make the outlines properly and well.
I felt that if a chalk outline is all that I can give
to this person, then they damn well deserved
a really good chalk outline.
Everyone I spoke with was moved, and somewhat
thunderstruck at the extent of the outlines,
down the streets as far as you could see,
and then turn the corner and see them there, too."


"I felt a certain eerieness, knowing these could be traded in, one for one, for coffins, draped flags, broken families."

"When I went back this evening,
I could see it is already working --
making people wonder and ask and think."


"Counting all the bodies really brought home the reality of just part of what has happened in Iraq, in America, in the world.
I fervently hope and work towards the day when, instead of bringing out the big guns,
we will bring out the big minds to explore resolution."

"Beautiful energy! It will make a difference."
"May this project be unifying
and provocative (in the best way)."
"What a community building experience."

"It is important to remember that this installation is not
at all showing "each" man and woman dead...
estimates are over 100,000 Iraqis.
And also, as Sen. Gary Hart explained,
when the press reports US "casualties" at ~2600,
that is an utter lie, roughly by 10X.
Casualty is defined as a death or injury,
and closer to 30,000 Americans
have been hurt seriously.

In the body count, they
only count the bodies of those who died in Iraq,
not those who may have died in the hospital
in another country after being flown out,
or those who died in transport
to another country or back here".

"I very much appreciate this as my son is in Iraq."

"While we were working I thought about our purpose-
a memorial- and the process- chatty and organizational.
I’m guessing much of the soldier’s life is like that
as well (with the addition of rage and terror).
No wonder service people become bonded
to their "brothers" and the experience
they have gone through together."

"Every chalk outline
one life
stretched together make
a community
of unrealized potential
of unlived lives
of sadness
of waste."

"As I just checked out at the grocery store the checker saw my pin (which said 42 Months) and asked if I had been downtown participating...
and I remembered seeing her down there but not being able to figure out how I knew her. Building community."

"One month was too long."
"Political is from "pol" = the people.
Everything is political that the people do.
Fear is the enemy.
Art is political.
Say it!"

"Dear Letters To The Editor – Bellingham Herald,

Bravo for Bellingham! The "42 Months" art installation
by RA Featherston that sprouted all over the sidewalks
downtown this weekend was a tremendous thing
to see – 2,600 chalk body outlines, one for every
American serviceman killed in George W. Bush’s
disastrous War in Iraq over the last 42 months.
Turns out it takes a LOT of sidewalk for that many
bodies, which kind of makes you think.
Hope this sort of innovative grassroots community-
building art project will be repeated all over the country.
When Bellingham leads, can New York be far behind?"

"I wondered how each soldier (person) died, suffered. Why?"

"I recall another gesture of honoring an Unknown Soldier that happened
in my childhood. I grew up in post-war Germany, where practically the
whole country became a mass grave. People died far from home and
loved ones, or there was none left to care for the graves. The cemetery
my friends and I used as our playground had a section of abandoned
war graves. One summer when we ran out of games to play, we each
adopted a grave to "care" for. It was not real or lasting beautification,
but it connected us with the reality of the war that had taken place
in our neighborhood not so long ago. The game called
"Lets take care of war graves" became a venue for us to discover
the personal aspect of war. We came to understand that the grave marker
represented a real person. My soldier, Anton Mayer, died in the last days
of the war. Which meant he was likely either very young or old,
since the able bodied men were in short supply by then. The "real"
soldiers knew all was lost by then. They already had ditched their uniforms
and headed home. Life went on and a new generation was born, but
Anton Mayer and those buried around him had no part in it. It felt
pretty senseless, but war always is."

"The thought of people waking up
on Sept. 11 and wondering what
the 42 Months or body outlines are
makes me happy. We should wonder
"what is this all about?"
So many perceptions,
ways of making sense of/using the experience.
Whatever it does-I hope it wakes us up!"

"This wonderful idea opened an opportunity to explain what "war" is to my 6 year old daughter."

"I was struck by the fact that so many "older" people
participated in this project while the younger generation
was noticed by its absence. There were a lot of mature
parents and grandmas and grandpas on their knees,
chalking the sidewalk. I think the generation that came
of age in the 60’ies just has experience in demonstrations:-).
In defense of the younger folks, it’s our age people
who are orchestrating this war, but their peers are dying.
With a volunteer military, a lot of young people can’t see
how this relates to them, but perhaps "42 Months"
will invite them to think."

"Good "concrete" thoughts for everyone!"
"Extremely eye opening! Such an impactful statement. Very moving!"
"Finished work…"disturbing."
Process to get there- just like the military-
some lead, some are leaders, some are good…all follow."
"Powerful statement of loss. Let’s hope some get shaken up from this effort."

"Family walking to deposit books at the public library.
Father: 42 Months?
Mother: Look at these.
Toddler in Stroller: What’s that? What’s 42 Months?
Mother: 42 months equals 3 1/2 years.
Toddler: Way are there bodies on the ground?
Father: Because of the war.
Toddler: Why? Why?"

"My heart is breaking but my spirit is touched."

"I’m against war in general, and this war specifically, but don’t find polarization helpful in resolving differences.
I honor vocal protester’s right to express their feelings, but I don’t need to cultivate more anger in myself about it.
I think your art installation is powerfully thought provoking and the images speak for themselves."

"We got no bad comments from the people who asked us
what we were doing. One man was ticked off because
we didn’t include the Iraqi’s who have been killed.
We agree with his sentiment, but that would be
another project yet. This one was big enough!
We told him, "we hear you" and then offered him chalk :-)"
"42 Months was a powerful experience for me
to participate in and I loved that in fact
so many people I know were participating ...
they are my community!
My daughter and son-in -law both
work down town and everyone is talking about it.
Our government doesn't want photos etc.
of bodies/caskets or anything
that brings the reality home ...
chalk outlines
help bring home
what a huge tragic waste it is
and perhaps it will help us
bring home the troops."


"May the memories of these lives live on long after the tears of time have washed away these images."

"It was your creative and moving idea that inspired me
to spend many hours in positions I haven't achieved
in years. I said it before and will say it again -
it was an honor. Peace."

"There's a poem I like and that I shared with my students: "
(Nooksack Valley High School)

Ashbah

The ghosts of American soldiers
wander the streets of Balad by night,
unsure of their way home, exhausted,
the desert wind blowing trash
down the narrow alleys as a voice
sounds from the minaret, a soulfull call
reminding them how alone they are,
how lost. And the Iraqi dead,
they watch in silence from rooftops
as date palms line the shore in silhouette,
leaning toward Mecca when the dawn wind blows.
--Brian Turner--from Here, Bullet

"I rode my bike by a few blocks of the images this morning.
I felt as though we helped to bring some of those ghosts a little
closer to home."

"I think it’s one thing for any human to hear numbers through mass media,
but it’s another thing to physically be a part of the count.
It’s tangible, it’s real."

"I phoned my son who has served two tours in Iraq and told him that I was going to participate in 42 Months.
After explaining what it was about, there was total silence from his end of the phone. Close to tears,
he expressed great appreciation that the soldiers are being remembered."

"I was totally surprised by the community building element in this event.
My drawing group was SO diverse---and yet we came together
in many unexpected ways."

"I personally was touched by the theme of the project. When I first signed on,
I was struck by the fact that some of the "figures" that we would be
chalking September 10th were still alive that day...
Those outlines are symbolizing real lives lost.
As a spiritual person and an artist I deeply understand the power of symbols.
For me it truly was a ritual to honor those lives."

"This kind of energy will save the world."
"Very powerful message. Gives me chills."
"Thank you for the opportunity to speak
as one voice with clarity and purpose and joy!"

"The visual impact of the endless bodies
was powerful and deeply moving."
42 Months was a complex and rich experience for me.
For weeks prior to that Sunday, my energy
was intensely focused on the task of preparing the tools
that would allow others to birth my personal vision.
I was providing the opportunity for a community experience
of producing a work of art that I hoped would be
beautiful, provocative, and reverential.

But on September 10th, I let go.
42 Months became the art and the shared experience
of those who showed up to draw—for hours--
around cutout cardboard figures.
It became OUR art.

Once completed, the piece stands on its own.
Now the viewer brings to the work
his or her individual response, regardless of my intention,
regardless of the spirit of the community whose hands drew it.
It has a life of its own.

As the rain falls, 42 Months is fading away…
May its spirit linger on a while ...


The quotes above are not necessarily paired with images of their authors.


Postscript

NOTES ON PROCESS

Having acquired a permit to do this project :

I needed to come up with the TOOLS to enable others to do the drawing:

1. I wanted a community of people to draw 2550+ outlines in
a couple of hours.
2. I walked the streets and calculated that the standard block
would accommodate approximately 100 "life-size" figures.
3. 260+ templates needed to be made from which people could
draw the figures.
4. My daughter took pictures of me, lying on my living room floor,
posed in gestural positions.
5. I used Photoshop to translate these images into outlines.
6. With the financial support of a dear friend, I purchased 140
sheets of cardboard.
7. A friend lent me an LCD projector and I projected the outlines
and drew 13 different figures onto 13 sheets of 4’x 6’ cardboard.
8. The cardboard came bundled in sheets of 10. A sheet with an outline
on it was placed on top of a stack- and then I used a scroll saw to cut
11 sheets.
9. In order to 2x my number of templates (buy 1/2 the cardboard) I used
both the positive figure and the remaining cardboard piece after it was cut.
I reinforced these "rectangular" templates with duct tape.
10. I purchased 484 boxes of chalk. Approximately 2 sticks per figure.

PUBLICITY:

1. Beginning with my e-mail and telephone lists I solicited volunteers.
2. I requested everyone I contacted to pass on the information.
3. I soon realized that I needed more structure- and implemented the idea
of teams of 10 whose leaders solicited volunteers.
4. Developed graphics and sent out press releases to all the local
newspapers. Cascadia Weekly published an article.

THANK YOU ALL FOR PARTICIPATING!

In particular, thank you for all your extra help: Colin Featherston-Wilkinson,
Mary Dumas, Deb Anderson-Frey, Teal Featherston-Wilkinson
and Eileen Herring.

Another major thank you to Jean Westgate, Bruce Brown,
Teal Featherston- Wilkinson, and Bruce Hendler who shared
their photos and with some of my own compose this page.

You may find additional stunning photos of this event in another website:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/robindude/sets/72157594291504258/