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Portraits of fallen soldiers.
Photo by Michael Cullen, Trent Photographics

The Fallen

Joanne Tod is painting portraits of every Canadian soldier who has died in Afghanistan

Three years ago, unhappy with Canada’s role in the Afghanistan war, artist Joanne Tod set herself a grim task: she would paint a portrait of every Canadian soldier who died in the conflict.

The decision reflected her own mixed feelings about the war. On the one hand, Tod, who lectures in U of T’s visual studies department, wanted to honour the individuals who had lost their lives. But as a “staunch pacifist” she also strongly opposed Canada’s involvement.

The result is “Oh, Canada – A Lament” – a series of 121 six by- five-inch portraits painted on birch ply and mounted on a freestanding wall among segments of a Canadian flag. Tod says the fractured flag, which appears to have been blown into pieces, symbolizes a “weakened state.”

The Canadian Heritage Warplane Museum in Mount Hope, Ontario, displayed “Oh, Canada – A Lament” between June and November. Tod hopes that a philanthropist will buy the piece for a museum – in which case, she says, she would donate the proceeds to a fund for families of soldiers who lost their lives.

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