I saw a photo in the news some months ago that just really got me - it was of a Kurdish mother saying goodbye to her daughter before the daughter went off to fight ISIS/ISIL. I was moved for a couple reasons - because it's so horrible what's going on over there; because the mother was blessing her daughter before she went off to risk her life for the safety of her people; because it's unusual to see women headed off into combat, in any culture.
So I knew I wanted to paint about it, but I didn't want to do this soldier in fatigues - rather, I was focusing on the fact that she is a daughter, with a life before going off to war. So I did a Google search of Kurdish traditional dresses and pieced together this fancy outfit, which I hope is somewhat accurate. While I was looking for images, I was struck by the lushness of some of the landscapes in the photos. I think we're so used to seeing desert landscapes associated with war (Afghanistan, Iraq, parts of Pakistan) that we forget that these countries have green, fertile lands too. So I set the dress in front of this landscape instead of a war-torn one to highlight the beauty of these countries and their people, despite the horrific tragedies that are occurring there.
What's Peshmerga? You may well ask. This is what the Kurds call their armed fighters. And as I was learning about this, I also learned about the rich history of women in warfare in that culture. You can read more in this opinion piece, which is a reaction to the Western media's obsession with the female fighters. I actually had been a bit out of the loop on all that, and had just seen the one photo randomly, so I'd like to think I didn't fall into the obsession, but am rather using this painting to express something about humanity and relationships.