Michael Daniel Fine Arts Critique – Wartime through an Artist’s Eyes 5/1/2007 Sutton Hall hosted an art exhibit

titled “Wartime Through an Artist’s Eyes.” It was a collection of photographs, paintings and posters on the subject of war. There were some extraneous Jimmy Stewart pieces that probably did not belong there, such as a small television showing Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and random photographs from his movies. There were a few pictures of Jimmy Stewart with soldiers but generally the Jimmy Stewart paraphernalia was only there because Indiana was his hometown. This reflected a bias that stems from the geographic and political location of the exhibit. Aside from Jimmy Stewart, the most striking aspect of this exhibit for me was the humanization of economic realities that war creates. As I moved through the exhibit I began in a room with charcoal sketches of no mans land from World War I. They were sketchy and showed the damage that occurred during World War I. As I moved through the exhibit the paintings took on some color, became more realistic and then I got to photographs. Beyond the photographs were posters for war bonds and finally, at the end of the exhibit was Jimmy Stewart. There were no action shots of battles being fought or explosions. This exhibit was about the activities surrounding war, such as refugees, decimated battle fields, ruins, food lines, potato crops, sweeping for landmines, soldiers being welcomed and soldiers relaxing in Algerian cafes. The first work I noticed with color was American Troops on the March. The medium was charcoal and watercolor. It was a picture of a column of soldiers marching in front of what looks to be a factory. In the background there are either trees or

smokestacks that have been badly damaged. In front of the column was a single soldier who looked as if he was commanding them. He was at the center of the work. In his hand he held what looked to me like a tire iron. The right side of the painting was the back of a truck that looked like it was driving in the opposite direction that the column is marching in. The painting was drab. The only color used was used to paint the soldiers faces skin colored. This was noticeable because it was the only work in the room with color. It was also more detailed than the other works in this room. The second work I noticed was titled Bernecourt. The first thing that I noticed was the medium. It was done in crayon and watercolor. I had never seen crayon in an art gallery before. It showed soldiers marching through a town. Some of them were interacting with what looked like locals to me. It is hard to tell, though. The painting was abstracted. The sky was a stormy blue, the town was vibrant peaches and yellows and in the foreground was a shadow with what looked to be a corpse in it. It looked happy until I noticed the shadow with the corpse. It is easy to overlook shadows when there is so much vibrant activity in the background. In the next room there were photographs of refugees getting food, children with no shoes, potato crops coming to fruition and being transported. The caption on one photograph said that it was a picture of a Greek child transporting fuel. It was a child carrying a bundle of firewood. It made me think that we don’t usually think of bundles of sticks as fuel anymore because our economic reality has changed so much. The next room had pictures of female soldiers being inspected and soldiers at cafes. One picture was of a refugee’s family. The picture was used by the refugee to find

his family. Another picture was a severed leg getting exhumed. That was the most depressing part of the exhibit. The last room had posters advertising war bonds. One poster had pictures of soldiers faces against a white background. There were big red letters saying, “Come on, moviegoers, buy extra bonds!... Back the Attack… 3rd war loan!” The second war bond poster showed a black and white photograph of a soldier with a crying baby. Under the photograph was white letters on a red background which read, “We can’t all go… but we can all help! Put at least 10% of your pay in war bonds. Sign the card today.” I noticed that each of these posters used the same shade of red for the writing. I also noticed that the second poster read, “… sign the card today.” That line seemed cryptic to me. Does it mean that the government wants you to sign a card to authorize them to garnish 10% of your paycheck and give you bonds in return or does it mean that they want you to sign a card to purchase war bonds? I did some quick research but I haven’t found an answer to that question yet. The economic perspectives shown in this exhibit included transportation of fuel, creation, transportation and consumption of food, women entering the work force, the government push to fund the war through public debt instruments, and demand for things such as shoes. When I study these kinds of things in my future studies in economics I will now have images to put with the charts (I am an economics major). That helps me to remember that the numbers I work with are not simply numbers. They represent people and experiences.