The word “war” commonly evokes pain, death, and destruction. But the newest art installation from The Escalette Permanent Collection of Art reveals a seldom explored aspect of war: creativity.
Creativity After Combat honors veterans, past and present, and explores the unique ability of visual art to capture aspects of the veteran experience. The exhibit brings together the work of World War II veteran artist John Paul Jones, and artwork created from the testimonies of veterans recently returned from conflicts around the world. The Escalette Colllection itself owns several works by artists such as Sam Francis, Robert Rauschenberg, and Frank Gehry, who are not typically known for their military service.
Andrew Harman, an archivist for Chapman’s Center for American War Letters Archives (CAWLA) in Leatherby Libraries, collaborated with Shen and Jessica Bocinski, Registrar at the Escalette Collection, on the exhibit. He provided materials from CAWLA, including drawings, poetry, and written artistic expression.
“In life, art takes many forms and is shaped by many different factors. So goes the same for these individuals whose experiences during war vary so wildly,” says Harman. “Students use materials like those in the exhibit and in the War Letters Archives to tell their stories as a part of how societies go to and are affected by war, and this exhibit showcases a little seen side of those individual experiences and/or the burdens carried by those few.”
A significant component of the exhibit comes from The Veterans Print project, which seeks to create a living record of veteran experiences and perspectives through historical narrative and artistic interpretation. Following an interview, veteran participants are matched with local print makers who then artistically interpret the veteran experiences and perspectives. The original artwork and a short narrative are then displayed for public viewing in galleries across the country.
“We’re excited to show a body of work that throws light on how diverse the veteran experience is,” said Lindsay Shen, Director of the Escalette Collection, in regards to the number of female artists represented in the exhibit. “The Escalette already owned work by male artists who were WWII veterans, but we wanted to give a voice to others’ experiences.”
The exhibit is open now and will be open until August on the second floor of Argyros Forum, in the Henley Galleria. Escalette will also be hosting a series of events to accompany the exhibit, including a letter writing campaign hosted by CAWLA and a lecture from Yvette Pino, founder of the Veteran Prints, both on February 26.
“If we took the word “veterans” off the title of the exhibit, I know people would still find it beautiful, or haunting, as all great work can move someone,” said Harman. “These just happen to come from a certain perspective that tells a story; a story to which I believe we should all pay attention.”
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.