Victory in Iraq
Just a year after the start of the second Gulf War in 2003, Dial created Victory in Iraq, his consummate work on the devastations of war. In this epic painting, which measures over ten feet long, Dial captures the carnage of human conflict, a barbed-wire world mangled and tangled in the wake of its own self-destruction. Hidden within the scene are tiny, gruesome dramas of slaughter and death, as everywhere the gray and green spots of military camouflage are joined by patternings of red, white and blue, ironic signifiers for the American dream of freedom and democracy that turn, at times, into splatters of blood. Finally, hovering above it all are two metal bars with flag-like stripes that form the patriotic V for victory, the delusional rhetoric of triumph etched atop the wreckage of war.
Dial’s Victory in Iraq is a true wartime junk heap, filled with the burnt and crumbling detritus of battle, as well as with the exploded myths of political self-deception. Produced at a time when the world had begun to question the justifications for one country’s desire to topple another, it reeks not only with the scent of a bombed and scorched landscape but with suspicions of public deception and obfuscation. Nearly concealed from sight within Dial’s glut of gloomy debris is the remnant of a can of Halvoline motor oil, the reminder of a persistent rumor about other, undisclosed motives behind the U.S. invasion. Still, beyond such clues, it is difficult to know exactly where Dial stands on the politics of the conflict. When asked, he alludes to a scriptural passage on the inevitability of human aggression in which Christ warns: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye not be troubled: for all these things must come to pass . . . .” —Joanne Cubbs