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, Kendra Eckert:
Ross’s story began as he reached into a burning pile of trash and pulled out the phone number of a recruiter he had met. He enlisted in 2009 and after three months of boot camp he chose his job in the Marines by flipping a coin; heads: intelligence officer. He went into the MOS school as an intelligence analyst. His role as an intelligence officer required him to disseminate information, interpret imagery, take reports, and communicate ideas to designated officials. He spent two years stationed in Okinawa, Japan and the most important event took place in 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami hit the island. He was a part of operation Tomodachi (‘friendship’ in Japanese). In the aftermath of this disaster he assisted in providing essential logistical routes for the transportation of relief aid and took part in the cleanup efforts on the island of Oshima. He also spent time in Thailand for military exercises and subsequently spent three weeks in South Korea. During his stay in South Korea he visited Seoul, South Korea for three days. He recalled going to the top of the End Tower and saw the expanse of the city spread out as far as the eye can see. So many other things took place that also added to his experiences both in and out of the Marines, and he left having gained great insight and a very cultivated world view.
The print that I created used two images from events during his travels travel had been vividly described to me during our conversation. The first is a photograph showing a scene from the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan during 2011. The second is also a photograph that shows a view from the End Tower in Seoul, South Korea. Both images were appropriated from the internet and chosen for their clarity and harmonious ‘connection’ when placed together. I wanted to create an image that could express the dynamic of witnessing the destruction of nature alongside the expanse of a thriving city. The two places collide: infrastructure and the absence of it. I included drawings of mine on the ends of the images that also seemed to show qualities rain and city lights. I chose to use a lightly colored Japanese paper called Kitikata that is delicate and slightly translucent. The quality of this paper helped to invoke the fragments of his experience that remain only as memory. The print was created using a photo-lithographic process, where the image is exposed and developed on a light sensitive aluminum plate and then printed using the lithographic printing technique.