This Veterans Day, the Escalette thanks all service members for their countless sacrifices to ensure our safety and freedom. In their honor, today we feature a work by a veteran artist in the Escalette Collection and reflect on the unique ability of art to help us connect with others’ viewpoints and experiences with empathy and respect.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, artist Yvette Pino enlisted in the army and served two tours in Iraq. In 2010 she founded the Veteran Print Project, which pairs veterans with printmakers to share veterans’ stories through art. From the start, the Project was a way to communicate complex and often ambiguous experiences, as well as to advocate for improved outcomes. Pino reflects, “If you can get the young veterans to start communicating… we have stronger historical documentation. Maybe we can solve some of the issues people come back with…You can’t make systems better, and you can’t document what’s good if no one talks about it” (Interview with Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times, 6 Sept. 2015).
Her print 1,000 Cranes is based on the testimony of Carolyn M., who served in the U.S. Air Force. Like many service members, Carolyn was a parent with young children. The print depicts her pulled away from her baby and toddler to serve in the Gulf War. Her role there was Moral Welfare and Recreation specialist, and she provided support, encouragement and comfort to other young troops, including parents missing their children.
Carolyn’s dilemma is portrayed through the hard black and white lines of the linocut printmaking medium, literally underscoring a wrenching black and white decision whose negatives are as stark as the positives.
But her story, told through Yvette’s print and the title of the work asks us to consider more. The narrative is set against a background of soft pink Japanese rice paper, overlaid with cranes.
Before the Gulf War, Carolyn served in Japan, and the cranes depicted on the rice paper are traditional Japanese symbols of loyalty, good fortune and longevity. They are also a reminder of the story of Sadako Sasaki, the little girl who developed acute leukemia ten years after the bombing of Hiroshima. Inspired by the Japanese legend that anyone who folded 1,000 origami cranes would have their greatest wish fulfilled, she spent the last months of her life folding cranes. She didn’t make it to 1,000, but she did inspire a youth movement for world peace that continues today.
Yvette Pino’s 1,000 Cranes asks us not to be quick to judge, not to arrive too soon at the conviction we have understood everything there is to grasp about another’s situation. It reminds us, too, to thank veterans like Carolyn for the peace and stability we should never take for granted.
We invite you to explore more of Yvette’s work and other artists from the Veterans Print Project through our online exhibition Creativity After Combat.
Explore all the works in the Escalette Collection by visiting our eMuseum.
Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences is the proud home of the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection of Art. The Escalette Collection exists to inspire critical thinking, foster interdisciplinary discovery, and strengthen bonds with the community. Beyond its role in curating art in public spaces, the Escalette is a learning laboratory that offers diverse opportunities for student and engagement and research, and involvement with the wider community. The collection is free and open to the public to view.