On a cool October evening, in a Brooklyn studio crowded with canvases, some still wet, Diane Foley stood before an oil painting of two solemn grade-school boys in the Libyan civil war. One of the boys held aloft a photo of a middle-aged man, a relative, who was missing.
“I like this one,” Mrs. Foley said to the artist, Bradley McCallum. “I particularly like the ones that show the victims because it’s not just destroyed buildings. Jim wanted to inspire us to reflect on what really happens in a war.”
Mrs. Foley has a desperately keen understanding of what happens in a conflict zone. “Jim” was her son, the freelance photojournalist James W. Foley. He was kidnapped in 2012 while covering the Syrian civil war, held hostage for 21 months and brutally murdered in 2014 by members of the Islamic State in an execution filmed by his captors and released online. Many remember his death, but his mother and Mr. McCallum, who is painting a series based on Mr. Foley’s work, want people to remember his chronicle of war, its human cost and his humanity.
Three years ago, Mr. McCallum, 52, approached Mrs. Foley with an idea for a project that would play the role of a memorial, reframe the collective memory of Mr. Foley and make tangible the quality of empathy in his work.