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, Taylor Quade:
When I first heard of our class collaborating with the class of Veterans for the Veteran Print Project I was a bit undecided on how I felt. I fluctuated between tremendously excited, intimidated, humbled, terrified, honored, and a more complex array of seismograph-like emotions. My involvement in the project was such a huge honor and I was very nervous to meet with my Veteran. I was afraid of a lot of things—like maybe he or she wouldn’t like my style of expression, that my Veteran wouldn’t feel comfortable telling me the intimate details I would need for the project, but most likely it was the fact that I had to create one piece of work that represents one specific person and the deep emotions and experiences he/she has encountered based off nothing but my imagination and the information I would be given. That was terrifying, yet so exciting. The Veteran Print Project most definitely challenged me, for good, as an artist.
Michael was a phenomenal partner and contributed all and more than what was expected of him. He was not only brave in his service but also in our conversations together. He wasn’t afraid to tell me anything and everything that I needed to make my print “a masterpiece,” as he called it. As I have zero experience with the military whatsoever, I was basically a sponge to whatever information he gave me. Michael went through intense training on an island in Hawaii. The most important things that stood out to me was his description of the place—overwhelmingly dusty and thick air, clouded, and heavy—and most importantly the relationships he created while there and how vital and deeply important their brotherhood was. This is what fueled the creation of my final print!
I started with a digital photo that Michael himself took through a night scope as the foundation of my print. I was really moved by the out-of-focus green and black image the moment I saw it. It encapsulated the setting he had described to me far too perfectly for me not to incorporated it. I wanted to keep the overall print very concise, so I balanced the digital image of the nightscape with an organic linoleum cut printed in white ink representing Michael and two of his “brothers.” They are secluded, white lines of beings in a dark and engulfing setting. They are meant to look fragile, as human life and love are, yet hold their weight. The white is alive and full of electricity against the heavy, inky black and green, and the more you look at the print as a whole, the more the trio stands out and overpowers the rest of the print. This is exactly what I wanted to express in my piece: the strength and solidarity of Michael’s brotherhood.
I am beyond grateful to Michael and all of the men and women alike serving our country. Such bravery and selflessness is an art in itself. Thank you!