The Sidell Gallery at the Essex Art Center is delighted to present the artwork by Drew Cameron from California, co-founder / director of Combat Paper Project and Nathan Lewis, artist and writer from New York; artists will share their transformative and healing experience through the process of paper making and art making with their uniforms worn during service. Both, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Lewis are Iraq War Veterans.
Combat Paper provides a unique experience and interaction with veterans and civilians, including sharing veterans' experiences through the language of art. There is also a direct connection among material, the uniforms and military objects, which are interpreted through the art form. The intergenerational conflicts that have been experienced in this country have shown us better methods of sharing the sacrifice.
On February 14th, 2003, I was a soldier in the U.S Army and deployed to Kuwait in preparation for the invasion of Iraq. After five weeks of waiting in the desert we finally received our orders to assault and the war began. As we went into the breech lanes that cut through the mine fields to force our way into Iraq, the brutal reality of what was about to happen sunk in. At that moment I vowed that if I made it home alive, I would rededicate my life to making art. While I was deployed all I could think of was being home. What I did not know then was that Iraq would come back with me.
When people find out I was in Iraq they want to know what it was like. I never know how to respond to this, so I simply say, “It was hot”. How can I sum up the horrible things I saw in a simple sentence? How can I say I am no longer the same person, and not for the better? In her book, Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag writes: “Transformation is the purpose of art.” At first this seems obvious, but this statement seized me and I could see the potential on many levels. “The War in Iraq” is my response to this question. My goal is to provide an honest perspective of the war that no amount of news coverage can give. By reconstructing my combat experience in visual terms it becomes possible to express something that I cannot articulate otherwise.
The theme of war in art has a long tradition. Artists such as Jacques Callot, Francisco Goya and Otto Dix used printmaking to show the brutality of war and humanity at its worst. I am using their work as a template for examining war in a modern context. I hope these drawings and prints will convey the fear, boredom, hunger, exhaustion, discomfort, loneliness, sheer terror, and the ever present looming unknown that is the daily reality for soldiers in combat.