My encaustic series, Ghosts of the Past, came about from my love of Civil War photographs. These images are so haunting and alive with emotion-- I'm entirely drawn to them and to the people in them. Having a brother-in-law in the military, I have begun to wonder about the lives of these Civil War soldiers. What were their lives like before they went to war? Who did they leave behind? Did they return to their families or did they die on the battlefield? Who were they and what were they thinking when these photographs were taken?
Looking into their eyes and judging their posture, I begin to imagine all the answers to these questions. Some are tired and worn out from a long struggle. Some are proud to be there and are filled with energy. Some men seem angry, others are pensive. These men are thinking of their wives, their children, and the lives that they may never return to. They are thinking of their brothers and friends that they are fighting alongside as well as against. As I paint, I think about their mortality. I ponder these questions and try to express their emotions as I perceive them to be.
I'll never truly know the answers to these questions but I do know that, through the years and through the countless wars throughout the world, soldiers are always going through the same emotions that these men were facing. They are always living and fighting through unimaginable circumstances. Always guarded, perhaps we'll never know what they are truly feeling inside. Hopefully, a photographer is able to document their struggle as well and with as much humanity as the photographers of the Civil War so that we will never forget their anguish. So that we may begin to know these ghosts of the past.
Photo Credit: Gen. George Thomas and a group of officers at a council of war near Ringgold, Ga., May 5, 1864. 77-HMS-344-2P. National Archives, Civil War images.