Gay poet and activist Nathaniel Siegel, a member of Acts of Art (actart.org), Poets for Peace, and Poets Against the War (poetsagainstthewar.org), stenciled the age of every U.S. soldier who has died in the war in Iraq on a canvas outside Tompkins Square Park during this past weekend’s Howl Festival.
More than 1,870 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq thus far. “If I spent one minute painting each age, this project would have taken 30 hours,” Siegel said on Monday morning. “I did not finish it in two days during the hours we were allowed to paint. I painted from the man who died at age 36 on March 21, 2003 through the man who died at age 20 on April 20, 2004.”
Siegel’s canvas measured seven feet by seven feet. If he were to have stenciled the ages of the 100,000-plus Iraqis who’ve died in the war, the canvas “would have stretched all the way around the park.” While he stenciled, Seigel urged onlookers to contact the White House and their U.S. senators to implore them to end the war.
“I think about the ACT UP phrase ‘Silence Equals Death.’ I heard a story about a poet who used an obscenity in a poem before a large audience. He was questioned on doing that. He replied that the only obscenity is silence. I believe that,” said Siegel. “I also believe that people want peace.”