The Veteran Print Project: Thomas Matuka

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.

Adam Hintze presenting his print of Thomas Matuka's story.

Adam Hintze presenting his print of Thomas Matuka’s story.

Artist Statement, Adam Hintze:

Although I have not had the opportunity to meet Thomas, in the short time that I have been familiar with his story it has been apparent that he has an incredible amount of dedication to personal growth. While reading Thomas’ story, he spoke a number of times about the opportunities he sought during his deployment that most service members may not have. These included exploring other countries, other cultures, and most importantly the contents of paperback books found within his unit. Spending idle time enriching himself with these narratives, Thomas was not only able to focus his energy eventually completing the collection of 100 odd books available to him. Being someone that has a hard time focusing, I myself envy and commend him on that achievement, which led me to the print you see here.

Coincidentally, my year has been focused hugely on the weight of text narratives, and things that remain after stress and distractions are stripped away, leaving only the written word, and our relationship with it. Using a series of 35mm photographs I took at an antique bookstore in Madison, I digitally edited, stacked a number of positives, and printed this lithograph. Being an abstract image of bookshelves, I was attempting to show both the power of the books that remain, and their place in Thomas’ memory, which he compares to a “slide show of disordered fragments”.

21 Thomas Matuka

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