In Progress

IN MEMORIAM

Honors Thesis / BFA Thesis Work

My last work completed in college, titled “In Memoriam,” focused on my grandfather whom I was very close to before he passed. By working with old family photographs, I have been simultaneously working through a memory problem which causes me to have issues remembering and imagining facial features whilst also broadening my ideas to speak on mental issues related to serving in the military, as my grandfather once served. This work utilizes screen printing and film photography and branches out into more sculptural arts as well, using military jackets as the canvas for some photographic work and also using materials like spent shell casings to connect to my honors research in Trench Art and its connection to trauma therapy.

 

"Trench Art" as Art Therapy During Wartime

I spent my final year at the University of Colorado at Boulder researching "trench art" and its connection to art therapy. The term “trench art” can be a bit misleading, as trench art is not limited just to art created by soldiers literally in the trenches. Instead, it can include art created by servicemen not spending time in the trenches, civilians affected by war, prisoners of war, and individuals in internment camps. 

Art therapy, then, is often acknowledged as being a powerful and non-threatening way of expressing trauma, stress, and other difficult emotions (sometimes far more comforting than verbal means of expression), and practicing art without a therapist can act in parallel ways. Thus, I studied the ways in which trench art parallels art therapy used on active duty servicemen and how art can aid in stress relief.

 
Bullet Bust
Bullet Bust
Bullet Bust
 

I started this project by using the same materials that were used in WWI, primarily shells, which is where my research of "trench art" started. I was also trying to think about how trench art compares to art in the gallery setting. In galleries, classical art and sculpture, such as marble busts, are highly respected, especially when compared to trench art which sees little attention in the art world as it is considered more of a souvenir of war. So the first piece that I made was a bullet-casing bust, which serves as a memorial for the artists put into war and the artists that were shaped by the war, and contrasts with the more traditional marble busts found in museums.

 

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Jackets
Rings
Single Jacket
Rings
Jackets
Rings
Single Jacket
Rings
 

I also finished a series of nine screen printed jackets, which related to my own memory issues. I do not have a “mind's eye,” meaning I cannot visualize imagery. This affects my memory of loved ones, as I can not remember on my own what their faces look like. This includes my grandfather. These nine jackets all come together in a grid to form a warped image of my grandfather’s face, similar to how I have to constantly try to piece together what he used to look like. I also used a variety of different military jacket styles as a way of thinking about what his own jacket could have looked like as he threw it out after returning to the U.S. The military also has a history of patching jackets for rankings, so I upscaled that idea by patching the entire back panel with the image.

The pockets are examples of what could have been carried in such jackets. The first pocket holds images of my grandfather and his wife. Similar images were commonly turned into “sweetheart” items in World War II, such as sweetheart grips on handguns. Sweetheart jewelry was also common, especially in the form of rings, which is what the second pocket holds. I fabricated the rings using the same kind of bullet casings used in the bust by cutting the tops off, flattening the rest of the shell, and then soldering the top back onto the curved shell.

 
IMG_4419.jpg
 

I finished off the tangible work by making two prints that were very specific to the research. Two dimensional works like prints, watercolor paintings, and even hand painted card games have all been created under the term "trench art." When prints were made, they often only utilized the color black since they were made out of found materials, i.e. duplicating ink and shoe polish. 


It is also common for servicemen that are utilizing art therapy to make memorial or commemorative pieces for friends and fellow servicemen that they had lost, so the two prints represent my grandfather’s two best friends that were killed during World War II: Red and Phil.