Suicide rates are alarmingly high among our Veteran community and our youth. Suicide is a complex issue but can often be associated with anxiety or depression - a loss of self-worth, belonging, or identity. This painting is a synthesis of visual and written art from the American experience. It incorporates a portion of the Walt Whitman poem, O Me! O Life! and its message of self-affirmation - to view one's existence itself as purpose enough, and to value one's contribution of self as reason enough, to continue. Whitman's writing paralleled a tumultuous period of political, technological, and societal change in the United States.
The anxiety and friction of late 19th Century America resonates with our experience today, a time in which we might find our sense of self shaken and uncertain. It is the work of the painting to stir up in the viewer, the question of whether the contributions of the boots have come to a close or that the boots stand at the ready - with an enduring, intrinsic sense of relevance, aspiration, and possibility. The painting carries forward Whitman's inquiry, and the viewer is valued with having the presence and the agency to decide.
The full poem follows, the bolded text is the portion represented in the painting.
O Me! O Life!
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.