Project Description

The Altar’s Shadow

The altar is raised above its surroundings. In a holy place an invisible power demands sacrifice. In the altar’s shadows: death.

These cairn like graves are found in impoverished settlements around the world. The stones piled up on the grave are neither a memorial or an idea of beauty. They are a desperate practicality. In a place of few resources the stones are uses to keep dogs from digging up the fresh remains of family members and dragging them through the village. Perhaps these are the true dogs of war. We see these graves in Somalia, in Darfur, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

This installation is about making the altar’s shadows visible. In making this sculpture I had to dig six graves. While I worked I imagined the sadness of burying innocent loved ones killed by terrorists, smart bombs, IED’s, cluster bombs, AK-47’s or cruise missiles.

In March of 2003, the week before we invaded Iraq, I stood with some neighbors at the intersection of Routes 41 and 44 in Salisbury, Connecticut. I was holding a candle to protest the invasion. I felt sad, and ineffective against the rush to war. I remember thinking, “their innocent children who are alive tonight who will soon be killed by American weapons. We will say their deaths were an accidental cost, a sacrifice.”

The altars shadows fall across their graves. To which invisible power shall we ascribe their sacrifice?

–Mark Mendel