David Keefe: Ace of Clubs
The Intoned Call Of The Invisible Piper, pencil on paper, 7 x 10, 2014
I was born in St Paul, Minnesota and grew up in Newark, Delaware. I hold a Master of Fine Arts degree from Montclair State University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting from the University of Delaware. From 2002 to 2009, I served in the United States Marine Corps and completed a tour of combat duty in Iraq as a riverine infantry scout from 2006 to 2007. I am the Director of the Combat Paper NJ program at the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, teach as an Adjunct Professor of Art at Montclair State University, work as an art project consultant and curator, and make art in my Montclair, NJ studio.
For the past few years, I have been exploring how multiple histories collide in a timeless landscape. Paradigms shift, yet in their transition crossover happens and multiple worlds begin to exist at the same time. This concept has become a catalyst for my compositions that explore and expose the boundaries between reality and memory, between chronologically lived experiences and simultaneity. Fishing as a young boy and serving a tour of combat duty in Iraq converge inexplicably. Bombs become fish and fish become bombs.
When Ella asked me to be involved with the 52 Reasons to Love U.S. Veterans project, I was immediately drawn because of her motivation: her son. I know Ella and her son, an army veteran, through our veterans art movement, and specifically the project I am involved with, Combat Paper. As a mother of a combat army veteran, Ella became very supportive of the veterans in our program. So when I was approached to illustrate the Ace of Clubs, I knew right away that I wanted to focus this drawing on my own mother.
In this pencil drawing I am a newborn baby held by my mother. She is lovingly looking toward me as I am looking over her shoulder off the page into the unknown. An M-4 carbine rifle is slung over my shoulder and I am vibrating with restless energy–an energy similar to that which I had when I took action immediately after 9/11. This image is a foreshadowing of my decision to become the Marine that served a combat tour in Iraq. No matter how great and terrible my war experience was, and how complex the veteran experience is, it is something I would never change. For good and bad, my military experience is a part of my identity, and in an unconscious deterministic sense, it has been a part of me since birth. The title: The Intoned Call of the Invisible Piper refers to Albert Einstein’s quote, “everything is determined, the beginning as well as the end, by forces over which we have no control. It is determined for the insect, as well as for the star. Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune, intoned in the distance by an invisible piper.” In my drawing, as my mother looks on, it is determined for the baby, as well as for the bombs. Too many mothers carry the burden of losing their sons and daughters to war, whether it is their lives, their limbs, or their moral injuries.
Lurking in the grass are the mortar rounds (bombs), similar to a school of fish waiting to strike. Moving in the same direction that I am gazing off the page, they too are heading toward the Piper’s call. War and violence destroy cultures and peoples as quickly and forcefully as a bomb detonates. My figures are stuck, surrounded by these unstable bombs posing as fish. This paradigm crossover becomes a labyrinth of inevitable destruction, with the vitality of my characters as fragile as the convergence of bombs and mothers. These paradoxes create a visual tension, and nonetheless, these bombs could explode, destroying a fragile loving moment between mother and son. In a blink of an eye, my memories, experiences and reality could all cease to exist.