"Purple Hearts" at Jen Bekman


Spc. Sam Ross

21 years old, 82nd Airborne, was wounded May 18, 2003 in Baghdad when a bomb blew up during a munitions disposal operation, leaving him blinded and an amputee. After many, surgeries, Ross was sent home to western Pennsylvania where he lives alone in a trailer, in one of the poorest counties in the state.

Photographed October 19, 2003 in the woods near his trailer in Dunbar Township, Pennsylvania.

"I lost my leg just below the knee. Lost my eyesight. I have shrapnel in pretty much every part of my body. Got my finger blown off. It don't work right. I had a hole blown through my right leg. You know, not really anything major. I get headaches. And my left ear, it don't work either."

"I don't have any regrets. It was the best experience of my life."


Cpl. Tyson Johnson III

22 years old, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, was wounded September 20, 2003 in a mortar attack on the Abu Ghraib prison. He suffered massive internal injuries and is 100 percent disabled.

Photographed May 6, 2004 at his home in Prichard, Alabama.

"Most of my friends they were losing it out there. They would do anything to get out of there, do anything. I had one of my guys, he used to tell me, 'My wife just had my son. I can't wait to get home and see him.' And you know, he died out there. He sure did and I have to think about that everyday."

"I got a bonus in the National Guards for joining the Army. Now I've got to pay the bonus back and it's $2999. The Guard wants it back. It's on my credit that I owe them that. I'm burning on the inside. I'm burning."

There is nothing like this "summer show" anywhere in the city, if not the entire country.

Jen Bekman's current exhibition, "Purple Hearts" neither seeks nor requires an introduction. You may already have seen the book, but walk into the gallery's very neat pocket space on Spring Street on the Lower East Side before this deceptively-quiet installation closes on August 30. You will leave speechless, if not gasping for breath, while trying to understand how we got to this, and where do we go from here?

Nina Berman began this powerful body of work several years ago . Unfortunately her young portrait subjects had beaten her to it.

The gallery has scheduled a book-signing, reception and talk with the artist on Wednesday, August 29 from 6 to 8pm. Because of the gallery's small size, those who are interested in attending, or in reserving a book, are asked to rsvp [[email protected]]

[images from Jen Bekman]

This is one show I will be going to...