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Wesley counts into the quiet of Year 5

By BILL MICKELSON

What’s Up writer

Right now, in the front window of the Wesley Art Gallery there’s a sign that says “For Rent.”

It’s a symbol that one man cannot do it alone.

Inside the gallery, there hangs a half-circle of enormous canvases covered with birds, the collective of which symbolizes the same thing.

Ironically, one man has done that alone.

With the Counting Series, the half circle of enormous canvases, local artist Don Wesley has, through his own dedication, with each sorrow-filled stroke, accounted a starling to memorialize each life lost in the first five years of the Iraq war.

As reports file in that this may only be the halfway point, if that, for American forces in Iraq, Wesley vows that his Counting Series will not cease.

“I have to close the gallery because I can’t commit the time that it takes anymore, but I won’t stop this series,” Wesley said.

Anyone who’s been in the Bremerton art scene long likely knows both the Counting Series and the Wesley. For those who haven’t, check it out at www.wesleyartgallery.com.

The Counting Series was a major point of debate when Wesley first started displaying it at his gallery near Evergreen Park in Bremerton and on the web in 2003.

Not out of any sense of protest, or morbidness, the Counting Series paintings are a labor of necessity of humanity to Wesley, a former Army man, software technician, fine artist and informed citizen.

The paintings are absent of politic until an observer offers his or her opinion concerning the meaning that is behind the acrylic.

But even those conversations have slowed to a halt over the last five years, Wesley said.

“For five years straight I’ve stuck my head in this thing ... it’s not coming back the same way this time,” he said.

When he first started the series throngs of people would come to see the paintings and share what they thought of the uber-sensitive topic behind the work. E-mails and letters from overseas as well as from home, even a pat on the back from the Brazilian consulate to the United Nations.

He said now he’s sensing a sort of complacency.

Those trends of complacency and apathy are disturbing. Reports in the Associated Press noted in polls that only an average 28 percent of Americans were aware that the number dead in Iraq hit 4,000 recently.

With his series, Wesley is not trying to declare whether it’s wrong or right, as a good jester does, he’s trying to get them to stop and think.

“How can we communicate with ourselves the implications of our actions?” Wesley asks.

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