Exhibition text for “Believe You Me”, Infinity Room Gallery, Los Angeles, California, written by Kevin Mulvey.

Gaping loss radiates from the center of warring powers’ influence: loss of memory, loss of clarity, loss of empathy. It is facilitated by moral, rhetorical, and visual persuasion. It is enabled by divided, secluded, and anonymous illusion. The public submits, marshalled, expectant, and complacent.

In Believe You Me, Eloise Hess exhibits a collection of thirteen paintings depicting the tension between persuasion and illusion in operation in her local surroundings, adjacent to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. At the razor’s edge of the overt and the implicit, Hess draws attention to the limits of the image to represent the vicissitudes of national power and its militancy. Productive of these paintings, a conclusion, that the image is both cause and casualty.

The images compiled, combined, and contorted within the paintings are culled from across the spectrum of the accessible; from roving Google satellite maps, scanning community Facebook groups, sifting archives of a defunct local newspaper, scouring US Central Command databases, and photographing tours of the Marine base. The structures, signs, and grammars of these images become apparent. The resulting composites are transferred onto an encaustic surface, ink pressed to wax and bound in an instant of heat (only for an instant, lest it be lost), and abstracted in oil paint.

The communal, ideological, and super-spatial swell of the collective psyche moves as the practice and product of war moves, from a warring world historical to a warring disembodied, continuous, and elsewhere. Adjacent to the Marine base, bombs are dropped across the governed desert in target practice for future human targets. The window-shaking echoes, sometimes seeming unending, become commonplace noise pollution colloquially called the “sounds of freedom”. On the Marine base, urban warfare is simulated in an artificial development the size of downtown San Diego. Intended to be nowhere in particular and anywhere in particular, the set is easily manipulated. Stacked shipping containers are rearranged like blocks, painted as if material (brick, stone, mud), realized with fictitious billboards (at present, in Arabic), embellished with blue cutouts (at present, as Mosques), and populated with role players as enemies and civilians (at present, often immigrants from Afghanistan). This is a theater most never enter, a play most never see, but for the awareness that it exists, that it is occurring, and in secret, or later, consummated elsewhere, a real act.