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Trompe l’oeil – the French term for realistic art that “fools the eye” – can be seen in many of James Razko’s paintings: in images of exquisite Middle Eastern tiles that appear old and chipped around the edges; in images of walls that look as if posters, added over the years, are peeling off in layers. The latter series includes symbolic words and images that help viewers relate the work to war: soldiers, guns, and airplanes, for example, and words such as “liberty,” “freedom” and “terrorism.”
The series titled Night Visions, although painted in a more traditional manner, conveys something equally unexpected. These landscapes are entirely green, and sometimes circular in format; they suggest we are seeing the landscape through a gun’s night scope. Other series by the artist, such as Impact Craters and Wounds, depict trompe l’oeil bullet holes and gouges that are also convincingly realistic.
James Razko has said that he uses trompe l’oeil and artistic illusionism as loose metaphors for the ways trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder are experienced and then re-lived. One thing symbolizes another: a two-dimensional surface appears to be three-dimensional, a muffler backfiring is perceived to be a bomb blast, and so forth. Despite their differences, all of these paintings refer to the artist’s war-time experiences in Iraq.