The following is a guest post by Katherine Blood, Curator of Fine Prints, Prints & Photographs Division. As moderator for the Veterans Art Showcase’s Combat Paper panel, she would like to thank the participating panelists and artists for sharing their knowledge, art, and stories.
The extensive Library of Congress collections of art and documentation related to war, peace, and the military service of veterans include such treasures as the Civil War photographs, including veterans’ portraits in the Liljenquist Collection; posters from World War I; World War II soldier sketchbooks by Victor Lundy, Karl McKenzie, and others; and Maya Lin’s design drawings for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to name only a few. Recent gifts to the Library have added some extraordinary artworks by, and in honor of, contemporary military veteran artists.
Collaboration between veteran and civilian creators to tell stories of military service and work through trauma using paper made from military uniforms is the centerpiece of a November 7th panel discussion in the Library’s Whittall Pavilion. Co-sponsored by the Veterans History Project and Prints & Photographs Division–it is part of the Library’s Veterans Art Showcase series of events in anticipation of Veterans Day and launching a yearlong commemoration of the Veterans History Project’s 20th anniversary.
Original artworks from the Library’s collections will be displayed during the event, including examples by participating artist/panelists Drew Matott (civilian), Ruth Lynne McIntosh (U.S. Air Force, retired), and Patrick Sargent (U.S. Air Force, retired), along with works by Jesse Albrecht (U.S. Army/National Guard); Dick Iacovello (U.S. Army); Bailey Rogers (civilian, U.S. Air Force veteran daughter, previously Smith); Margaret Sheppard (civilian, previously Mahan); and Eli Wright (U.S. Army). The displayed artworks come from the Library’s Combat Paper Project Collection and recently-acquired works by Patrick Sargent and Erwin Thamm (civilian).
The acquisition of the Combat Paper Project Collection was an outgrowth of the work of panelist and independent scholar Tara Tappert, who came to the Library in 2014-2015 as the David B. Larson Fellow for Health and Spirituality in the John W. Kluge Center. In tandem with her research focused on the use of arts and crafts by the U.S. military for soldier rehabilitation, vocational training, and well-being during and after World War I, she was also curating exhibitions in the U.S., Australia, and the Netherlands, drawn from the portion of the Combat Paper Project collection that she managed. Between 2015 and 2016, Tappert worked with participating artists and Library of Congress curators to facilitate a gift of twenty-two selected artworks from this exhibitions collection.
Iraq war veteran Drew Cameron and civilian artist/papermaker Drew Matott co-founded the Combat Paper Project, inviting veterans to cope with war experiences by creating art using pulped paper made from old military uniforms–often their own. Matott’s discussion will further encompass his current Peace Paper Project work, using papermaking and book arts for social engagement, advocacy, therapy, and community building around the world.
Ruth Lynne McIntosh will describe her ongoing collaboration with Matott which has continued since they first met during a 2009 Combat Paper workshop at The Southwest School of Art in San Antonio, Texas.
Patrick Sargent will talk about his current work at The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, and papermaking workshops that he leads with Captain Moira McGuire for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s Warrior Clinic in support of transitioning warriors. The paper for this artwork was made from old military uniforms as well as Walter Reed medical scrubs. Sargent has participated in The Arts & the Military organization founded by Tappert in 2011 with an ongoing mission to: “…share the complex and fascinating history of The Arts and the Military with civilian and military audiences. We believe an understanding of this honorable history enhances the present-day efforts of medical staff caring for wounded warriors, military personnel at the war front and the home front, and civilians working within military communities.”
- Have a look a the schedule for the Veterans Art Showcase and learn more about the Veterans History Project and its programs.
- Delve into the contents of the Library’s Combat Paper Project Collection by perusing the catalog record. A few have been digitized, but with advance notice, you can arrange to view the originals.
- Explore how the Library’s Combat Paper collection complements other holdings: two were featured in a recent exhibition Art in Action: Herblock and Fellow Artists Respond to Their Times – view the exhibition online.
- Read more about Tara Tappert’s research in the Kluge Center’s 2015 blog post, “War, Trauma, Memory and Art.”
- The Combat Paper collection highlights artistic expression by veterans. Images of veterans has been one collecting focus in the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs–have a look. Monuments honoring veterans, including Maya Lin’s design for the Vietnam War are also well represented in the collections.
As the day of recognition honoring our veterans approaches, it is good to see an exhibit such as this. The socially engaging work put out by the Combat Paper Project provides a clear and focused lens into the multi faceted nature of our veterans. I appreciate the attention given to these artists and their collective voices.