This past semester, my class of student veterans at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point joined forces with The Veteran Print Project and an advanced printmaking class at our university to produce fine art prints based on my students’ stories of military service, war, and coming home. I’ll be sharing pictures from the big reveal we had in May, as well as the artists’ statements and the work they produced.
I think I speak for everyone involved when I say that this was a tremendous opportunity for everyone to better connect, for my students to share their stories, and for the artists to create meaningful work on truly profound topics. Tolstoy said that the purpose of art was to provide a bridge of empathy between the artist and others. We took that concept one step further. By sharing their stories, my students connected with their artists, eliciting empathy and a better understanding. The artist then illustrated what they discovered for you, the viewer. The veteran then had the amazing opportunity to bear witness to their own stories and to see the ways in which their illustrated stories affected other viewers.
I hope that the work you see here will transform the way you think about war and veterans — I know it has for me.
Artist Statement, Hannah Herkert:
The Veteran Print Project was a learning experience. I had never had many chances to sit down with a veteran and discuss the things that they experienced. While Cody Makuski and I only talked briefly about his experiences, I felt I learned a lot about him as a person through the things he and I had the time to talk about. My impression of him was a very reticent person much like myself, but when he did talk he spoke of things with significant personal weight. While Cody was on tour in Afghanistan in 2011-2012, he worked to clear a route of potential explosives. The entire mission lasted over two weeks, with himself and five other soldiers all in a single MRAP vehicle slowly making progress. With my print I tried to convey a sense of what I could only imagine is a fraction of the anxiety and claustrophobia that he must have felt during this time. I combined this with the earlier ice-breaking story of when he first arrived at base before a well was dug for showers, deliberately choosing the colors to reflect an uncomfortably constant coating of sand and grit.