The silence of a peaceful Sunday morning was broken on the shores of paradise. The once calm waters turned black with oil while an inferno of flames rose from its surface consuming dying ships. Young men were taken, turned to ash and entombed forever below the deck. December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, has become gradually forgotten within the modernity of our time.
December 7, 2016. A single painting captures the memory of that infamous day. 41 prints are produced from its image and signed by the last remaining survivors from the USS Arizona. They are sold for $1,177, for every man still entombed, raising $48,257 to send the last Arizona survivors back for the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor, all expenses paid.
Cassidy Newkirk, a young Wyoming artist, dedicated a year of her life researching and creating the body of work. She took over 3,000 reference photographs of sailors in uniform, soot covered, and burned, running, injured, and dying, encompassing all situations imagined to paint. With the help of friend and model, Jake Berg, Newkirk created nine hours of SFX special effects gelatin make-up recreating a full body burn victim from the description of Donald G. Stratton, a USS Arizona survivor and friend. All images were used for the educational purpose of the sacrifice made that day. All men in the painting came from the recreations of Newkirk and Berg’s reference photography.
She included survivor stories, specifically the story of Donald Stratton and Lauren Bruner escaping death by climbing hand over hand across a heaving line to the USS Vestal, 75% of their bodies burned. Coming from a small town, Newkirk’s support was immense, it took a community of family, professors and friends to frame the painting, critique its image, move it to various locations and eventually package and ship to Hawaii.
The original painting hangs in Pearl Harbor overlooking the now calm waters where the Arizona eternally rests and continues to cry her black tears. The painting stands at eight feet high and six foot wide. Painted on panel with oil. Newkirk also placed pieces of the Arizona’s rusted metal within areas of the paint itself as well as sand from various beaches fought throughout World War II. The sand resides in the blue of the sky as a hope that the young men that died that day did not die in vain.
During the duration of the project Newkirk and many others experienced
supernatural encounters. Newkirk more than anyone experienced them the most. “I don’t know why they chose me, but I am so thankful that they did. I have been given this gift in order to paint the stories of those that no longer have voices. To preserve the sacrifices made through art. To make sure the next generation remembers. My Angels are afraid of being forgotten and they found a small town girl from Wyoming who would listen to them. That’s what I do and will continue to do, is listen and follow what they have planned for me. They are the reason I paint, the reason I love art so much. Every one of those men mean the world to me. The old guys laughing to each other at the Tiki bar or the ones that lead me there in the first place, spiritually, it is my passion, it is my life. If I could be slipped into history with anybody I am so thankful it was with these men, the greatest generation, my heroes.”
Newkirk accompanied the last survivors, Donald G. Stratton, Lauren Bruner, Lou Conter, Ken Potts, while Lonnie Cook was unable to attend, to Hawaii for the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. She spent nine days with the greatest generation and her heroes. After the initial 41 prints, Newkirk felt it was important for others to experience the painting. With respect for the 41 she re-released the image, this time without the signatures of the survivors, as to keep the 41 special and forever priceless.