The National Veterans Art Museum is expanding its reach to international levels with a new show entitled Above and Beyond: War through the Eyes of American Veterans, opening at the Museum of Political History in St. Petersburg, Russia in early December 2012 and will remain on display until February 15, 2013.
Curated by the NVAM’s creative director, Ted Stanuga, and Debra Purden, curator and registrar for the Chicago Cultural Center, Above and Beyond: War through the Eyes of American Veterans highlights some of our most notable artists from the Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan era. Each piece was chosen for its artistic caliber, as well its contribution to mission of lending insights into the experience of war. These paintings, sculptures, and photographs all express and explore various facets of serving in the military from powerfully unique perspectives.
One of the sculptural pieces to be shown in Russia, “Typewriter Where The Publisher meets the Writer: (and the Writer’s Imagination). A Parody” by Vietnam veteran Jay Burton Hellwege is one example of the complex and poignant artwork being shared in Above and Beyond: War through the Eyes of American Veterans. Painted white, and set atop a typewriter, toy soldiers aim their guns and tanks at a man reading a stack of papers. This scene reflects the cynicism and post-traumatic stress that the artist has endured since his time spent in the Vietnam War.
Another Vietnam veteran, William Dugan, creates art that deals with the implications of war both past and present. With his sculpture, “Blood for Oil,” he references the political issues surrounding the Global War on Terror with the use of blood, oil, and sand. These artworks continue to reflect contemporary military concerns with a morbid sense of blatancy.
As a painter and Iraq War veteran, Aaron Hughes creates art to satisfy the need to express and share his experiences with others. He uses art as a tool to conform issues of militarism and occupation. For his paintings “Anaconda” and “Boy in the Dust," Hughes explains, “I didn’t understand the war. I did not understand the ease of dehumanization or the ambiguous, anxious convoys of nothingness, for nothing. I did not understand the day-in day-out reality of dust-covered skin, uniform, truck, and children. I wanted to think this American kid from the Midwest could help the oppressed Iraqi people.” These images illustrate his thoughts about his place in the wider context of war, as well as raises questions about these prescribed roles.
Above and Beyond: War through the Eyes of American Veterans brings together many of the seminal artworks from the NVAM’s permanent collection. It emphasizes pieces that represent the cornerstones of the National Veterans Art Museum such as giving patrons of all backgrounds insight into the effects of war and providing veterans an outlet to work through their military and combat experiences. Above and Beyond: War through the Eyes of American Veterans is about sharing these experiences with Russian viewers who are interested in learning about U.S. cultural history, and setting the scene for new international relationships and understanding.
Above and Beyond: War through the Eyes of American Veterans is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.