Turning War Into Art: Combat Paper At Caldwell University

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Caldwell University’s Visceglia Gallery will host “Turning War into Art: Combat Paper at Caldwell University,” an exhibition of prints created by members of Combat Paper NJ, Oct. 31 to Nov. 30. An artists’ reception for guests, students and faculty will be held 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, in the gallery.

Combat Paper NJ is a program of the Printmaking Center of New Jersey, run by veterans for veterans. Dave Keefe, the director of Combat Paper, is a former Marine who served in Iraq and holds a master’s in fine arts in painting from Montclair State; Eli Wright, the coordinator, was an Army medic. Veterans—men and women, from World War II through the more recent operations in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and rescue missions in Haiti—have participated in Combat Papers’ programs at its site in Branchburg and at numerous off-site workshops.

 The works on view in the Visceglia Gallery use a variety of processes such as wood engraving, etching and photo transfer. A compelling common denominator is the paper support for each print—military uniforms that have been shredded, pulped and pressed into unique paper, a process both transformative and cathartic. Veterans are invited to bring their uniforms to Combat Paper’s weekly open workshop and, through the steps of traditional papermaking, transform them into platforms for their works of art. A sample of papers produced from military uniforms—from different services and eras ranging from post-World War II to current deployments—will be included in the exhibition.

 The works remind us of the unexpected interactions between soldiers and civilians, the presence of women in combat roles, the challenges of homecoming, and moments of relaxation. The prints are engaging, confrontational, emotional, disturbing and ultimately deeply personal statements of service members’ reactions to war, what they endured on their deployment, and their struggles to re-enter civilian life.

 Exhibitions such as this one at Caldwell further the mission of Combat Paper not only to provide the public the opportunity to view these extraordinary works but to help break down the isolation many veterans encounter in their struggles to resume their lives away from the experiences of chaos and conflict pictured in their art.

The exhibition was curated by Maribeth Flynn, a lecturer in the Art Department. “Turning War into Art” will be open daily 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.


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