Paintings: oil on linen, toner on silk
Inescapable Truths is a project that honors the life and work of American conflict journalist James Foley (1973-2014).
Foley used external hard drives to back photographic- and video footage taken while he was working in Libya and Syria. For the past year, Bradley McCallum has been working with Foley's hard drives to identify key sequences in his work and to use this as source material for new artworks.
McCallum is currently in the process of creating a series of layered paintings of which are built from collages of video stills and photographs. His intention is to reframe vital moments of which Foley documented- and to express the trauma, loss, and human consequences of war, as well as the importance of conflict journalists who report from the fields.
Mercy (Benghazi, Libya, March 19th 2011, 6:06 am)
Jim Foley worked as a freelance journalist and videographer in Libya during the height of the Arab Spring in 2011. Early in the conflict, the fighting was sporadic and chaotic. McCallum's painting captures a scene from March 2011 in which a field ambulance returns from the front. It appears one of the men in the truck has a noose around his neck. The silk captures two frames of this hectic scene and diffuses the brutality of this image, shifting the focus to the drama that is swirling and unfolding as the community bears witness to what is turning into a revolution.
56.5” x 85”
oil on linen, toner on silk
Born James Wright Foley on October 18, 1973 to John and Diane Foley, Jim was one of five children and a bright light that emanated at the center of the family with a mix of wanderlust, passion, faith and humor. Jim’s spirit and commitment to serving others lives on through the work of the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation. The foundation, headed by Diane Foley, has kept the spotlight on hostages and pushed the U.S. government and governments around the world to do more to help the families who are enduring or have endured seeing loved ones held hostage.
Jim’s extraordinary life and his tragic death have also inspired a generation of reporters and editors to work harder to ensure the safety of all journalists, particularly freelancers, reporting in the field at a time when the peril faced by journalists. It is a peril that is exceptionally grave for local reporters who are the most likely to be targeted and killed, often with impunity. Jim’s murder in 2014 came amid the worst year in recorded history for attacks on journalists, and spurred the formation of an organization called A Culture of Safety (ACOS) which has established a new set of standards and practices for safety and protective measures to be followed by both freelance journalists in the field and the news organizations that assign them there.
Beyond the James W. Foley Legacy Foundation and ACOS, Jim’s spirit of humility and dedication to the craft of journalism live on. He set an example as a journalist passionately committed to service and to bearing witness to the people who suffer amid the horrors of conflict. Jim’s life and work still inspire a new generation of journalists to dedicate themselves to giving voice to the voiceless. And his violent death chastens the global community of media organizations to ensure the safety of all journalists doing their job in the field.
“I want my work to play the role of a memorial,” says McCallum, “to act as a public site of collective remembrance, and to reframe our view of Foley, to shift our focus from the graphic memory of his execution to the significance of his life and the stories he reported on.” (2017)
The project includes fifteen to twenty oil paintings (including large scales, and smaller scales) created in McCallum’s signature style; layering photographic silk scrim over oil paintings. The silk envelopes the painting and subtly obscures the image depicted on the canvas. This layering process produces a painting that is breathtaking and cinematic.
In this project, McCallum transforms Foley’s journalistic archive into poetic works of which transcend to the politics of war and terrorism, furthermore, he emphasizes the essential role journalists obtain to speak up for and report on humanitarian struggles while acknowledging Foley's moral courage and profound sacrifices in the field.
The artist gratefully acknowledges the support and trust of Diane Foley and The James W. Foley Legacy Foundation.
The Foundation was started by Diane Foley in 2014. Their mission is to advocate for the safe return of all Americans detained abroad, to protect independent conflict journalists and to educate regarding these threats to our freedom. The Foundation provided me with the portable hard drives Foley used to back up his personal and professional files. This is the first time such sensitive and vital information has been accessed since his death.
© Bradley McCallum 2021