Craft in America : Ehren Tool

Ehren Tool

Ehren Tool is a ceramic artist and Senior Laboratory Mechanician at the Ceramic Department at University of California, Berkeley, and Marine Veteran of the 1991 Gulf War.

Tool was greatly influenced by American expressionist ceramic sculptor, Peter Voulkos. Tool says of his own work, “The images on the cups are often graphic and hard to look at. You may be for or against a particular war but I think it is too easy for us to look away. I think we as a country and as humans should look at what is actually going on. … I would like my work to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the world. That is a lot to ask of a cup…”

I hope that some of the cups can be starting points for conversations about unspeakable things.

“I hope conversations flourish between veterans and the people who are close to them. I also hope that some honest conversation can happen about war and its causes.”

Tool received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley and BFA from the University of Southern California and has exhibited his vessels at the Oakland Museum of California, the Craft and Folk Art Museum, the Berkeley Art Center, the Bellevue Arts Museum, and The Clay Studio among others.

 

 

http://www.craftinamerica.org/artists/ehren-tool/

The Daily Californian, Stacey Nguyen – 2015

In San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design, rows of dangling silver dog tags hang from a wooden slab like bead drops on a chandelier. On the dog tags

 

 

read chilling phrases such as, “Please don’t tell me this was for nothing.” The piece is Teri McCans’ aptly named “Faith in Myself, Faith in My Leadership, Faith in the Oath I Swore for my Country.”

In cases of trauma, how do people grapple with the meaning of their experiences? For veteran artists featured at the Museum of Craft and Design’s exhibition, “Art and Other Tactics: Contemporary Craft by Artist Veterans,” it is through craft. “Art and Other Tactics” presents an intergenerational collection of works from artists who have served in World War II, Vietnam, Korea or more recent conflicts in the Middle East. Moving and honest, the exhibition reveals how veterans use art for understanding, healing and connecting.

During the Vietnam War, veteran Michael Aschenbrenner sustained a leg injury, and he spent almost a year in a hospital with mostly amputees. In his piece, “Damaged Bone Series #7,” bundles of matte and glossy glass bones hang on the wall. They are wrapped in a gauze-like material and erected by tree twigs. The gauze and branches reflect the practicalities of available material on the field. The glass material executes a metaphorical purpose, showcasing both the fragility and strength that war provokes.

For Aschenbrenner, crafting the bones was a process of discovery. “I did not even recognize them as bones until a fellow student at graduate school said, ‘Boy, they look like bones,’” Aschenbrenner noted in an interview with The Daily Californian. “It turns out I’d been having dreams about the whole thing.”

Aschenbrenner’s poignant series is a personal memorial for the Vietnam War. “It doesn’t glamorize war. This is really the reality of war,” he said. “You get hurt. And then you suffer either mental or physical pain the rest of your life.”

Other works in the exhibition reframe assumptions about service and war. Jessica Putnam-Phillips asks viewers to reconsider gender roles and the dichotomy between domesticity and military service in “Reflections,” a beautiful collection of glazed, hand-decorated plates. Putnam-Phillips, who previously served as an intelligence specialist in the Middle East, decorates pastel-colored plates with floral decorations and ornate gold finishes. In the middle of each plate are maroon ink drawings of women in military uniform carrying weapons. The work meditates upon issues that military servicewomen face, such as the need to prove their competence.

In his project, “Untitled Media Images,” Ash Kyrie enlarges an image of American soldier Bowe Bergdahl and pastes it onto an exhibition wall. Since last year, the American media has been closely following Bergdahl’s absence and capture by the Taliban after accusations of desertion emerged.

Feeling a disconnect between his experiences of war and mediated news images, Kyrie archived media images into three major categories: Benign intervention, abstract explosion and sacrifice. The Bergdahl picture belongs to the “Sacrifice” portion of Kyrie’s project. Partitioned by a white grid pattern, the piece is an augmented grayscale screenshot of Bergdahl from a “proof of life” video. It consists of Ben-Day dots, a method commonly used in print media.

Kyrie invites visitors to personally engage with his piece by tearing it down. The act of tearing down the picture serves as a haunting metaphor for the ambiguities inherent in a recontextualized image.

“We have a heavily mediated image already from the beginning, and that’s our knowledge as civilians of what the war reality is,” Kyrie said to the Daily Cal. “Every day we’re not seeing those images, we’re forgetting those images. This process helps people realize how ephemeral knowledge is, and how subjugated it is to mediated sources.”

“Art and Other Tactics” illuminates both the destruction of war and the construction of artwork. It lies at the intersection between pain and possibility. Ultimately, it acknowledges the traumas of war while honoring craft as a tool of creative agency.

Art and Other Tactics will be showing at Museum of Craft and Design in San Francisco until March 27.

Stacey Nguyen covers visual art. Contact her at snguyen@dailycal.org.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the name of the exhibit as “Art and Other Contemporary Tactics: Contemporary Craft by Artist Veterans.” In fact, the exhibit is titled “Art and Other Tactics: Contemporary Craft by Artist Veterans”

http://www.dailycal.org/2015/10/08/art-and-other-contemporary-tactics-explores-veterans-trauma/

Sharon Cohen, Ap chicago 2012

Vets preserve memories of war with their own art

By SHARON COHEN | November 10, 2012 | 12:34 PM EST

ADVANCE FOR USE SUNDAY, NOV. 11, 2012 AND THEREAFTER – In this Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012 photo, artist Marcus Eriksen, a Gulf War veteran, works on a mold of his mentor, Capt. Charles Moore, a fellow scientist, at his home studio in Los Angeles. More than 350 veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan have turned to art to preserve more intimate and enduring memories of war, and more than 2,500 of their works have found a home at Chicago’s National Veterans Art Museum. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

CHICAGO (AP) — The fallen Iraqi soldier’s face is frozen in agony, his eyes and mouth wide open, his arms spread in surrender, his death in the Kuwaiti desert captured for posterity.

The sculpture’s title: “Angel in the Desert.”

Marcus Eriksen was a young Marine sergeant during the Gulf War, riding with a convoy to Kuwait City, when he encountered the Iraqi soldier. It was the first dead body he’d seen. The image was haunting, the experience unforgettable. But it took more than a decade before he started welding the memory into art.

Using a mannequin, an old uniform and plaster cast of his face and hands, Eriksen produced a mold and lined it with 70,000 steel ball bearings. He meticulously recreated the scene: the soldier on his back, knees bent. His insides exposed beneath his shirt. And swooping curves in the sand that suggested he’d moved his arms like a kid making snow angels.

This, says Eriksen, is not “an anti-war message. It’s a reality of war message.”

Every November, America honors its veterans with grand parades, speeches and tributes. But more than 350 veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan have turned to art to preserve more intimate and enduring memories of war, and more than 2,500 of their works have found a home at Chicago’s National Veterans Art Museum.

The modest museum, which focused at first on Vietnam vets but has since expanded, includes paintings, prints, drawings, poetry, photos, sculpture, collages and video. Most of the vets are trained artists who’ve used their skills to illustrate harrowing life-and-death experiences, explore personal demons and celebrate fallen comrades. This is art that dredges up nightmares for some, and healing for others — Eriksen, among them.

Now 45, he vividly remembers Feb. 24, 1991, when he and about a dozen other Marines stood around staring silently at the dead soldier sprawled 30 feet from his incinerated truck. “No one would cry,” he says. “As a Marine, you just suck it up.”

“Seeing him put a face on the suffering,” Eriksen recalls. “I knew he was dead but his family didn’t. … All that death and destruction — was it worth it? If you’re going to commit young people to kill and be killed, you have to have a solid reason for it. And I don’t think we had that.”

Eriksen, now an environmental activist in California, began creating his sculpture shortly after the first bodies of U.S. troops started coming home from Iraq in 2003. It stirred up emotions of his days in uniform.

“It allowed me to remove the burden of my memories of Kuwait, of all the bodies, of the stench. … Just making the sculpture … would bring tons of sadness,” Eriksen says. “I would think about that person and what happened every day. At some point, I thought, ‘Do I want to feel that way the rest of the day?’ Eventually you tell yourself, as I did, no, I’m not going to beat myself up a millionth time. I’m done with that.”

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A man with a mustache, a fringe of brown hair and almost cartoon-like huge brown eyes looks out from the canvas. His lips are a barely defined pink oval. His expression is blank.

Title: Thousand Mile Stare.

More than 30 years passed before Helen White painted the picture of the officer she saw at the 67th Evacuation Hospital in Qui Nhon, where she served as an orthopedic nurse. She doesn’t remember his name, his face or much else beyond the fact that he’d arrived there after surviving a firefight that had killed almost everyone else. His eyes telegraphed his trauma.

“They were wide open, they were scanning, looking for safety and looking for danger,” White says. “If you see the stare, it’s not something you forget. … The memories stay in my mind, even if I don’t focus on them. And, of course, there’s the mystery — what happened, how did he recover, what impact did it have on his life.”

Some people, she says, are disturbed by her painting; others think the raw image isn’t even art.

White, who turns 65 on Tuesday, is retired from nursing and grappling with service-related PTSD, which she says has grown so intense that she has become agoraphobic. “Just going to the grocery store is a challenge,” she says. “Sometimes I just stay in my house.”

Painting has brought some solace, and also puts her in contact with a world beyond her Missouri home; she follows the works of artists who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and sees a commonality in their creations. “It gets back to the same song, just another verse,” she says. “War is war.”

“I don’t regret being there,” White says of Vietnam. “There’s a lot I wish I could have done. I got off the plane, did what I could. I got back on the plane and came home. Some people didn’t. So this artwork is like leaving a sign behind that I was here. It’s like a cave painting. I never intended it to be that, but in a way it’s a legacy.”

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A toy soldier is trapped in an orange pill bottle, the lid screwed on top. His arms are raised over his head, his rifle is held high in one hand, his right knee is bent as if he’s trying to climb out.

Title: Trapped.

This print — created on paper made from an old Army uniform — hints of Malachi Muncy’s two life-changing tours with the Texas National Guard in Iraq.

He was just 18 when he first deployed, and once in the combat zone, Muncy says he began taking sleeping pills to shut out the world. The constant dangers he faced on truck-driving convoys were overwhelming.

“So much bad stuff happened,” he recalls. “Watching IEDs explode, and mortars hit. Being pinned down on bridges, you wonder where the fire is coming from. You just sit and wait to get shot at and you have no control over whether you’re going to live or die … I was having nightmares. I really felt I was going to do stupid things and hurt the wrong people. I was having thoughts I couldn’t expel.”

Muncy got into trouble, he says, pointing a weapon at a superior after a mission in which he went 36 hours without sleep.

When he returned home, life unraveled. He slept all day, he says, started hanging around with the wrong crowd, got hooked on methamphetamines, amassed a pile of speeding tickets and was arrested for shoplifting. He took an overdose of pills — he’s not sure if it was a suicide attempt.

And yet, almost inexplicably, he returned for a second tour in 2006. Muncy, who later was diagnosed with PTSD, says he wanted to get away from “the mess” and all the pills.

That second stint went far more smoothly and Muncy, now 27, began keeping a journal. When he returned to Texas — he works at a coffee house in Killeen, outside Fort Hood — he attended college and became interested in poetry, photography and other arts.

“It’s about sharing the experience,” he says. “It’s not just something that haunts you.”

Using a toy soldier and a pill bottle he’d kept on his key chain, Muncy produced one print showing the trapped soldier. A second one shows the bottle tipped over, the soldier crawling out on his belly. That one is appropriately called Escape.

“They’re both me,” Muncy says. “It’s not then and now. It’s a back and forth. Sometimes I still feel like the guy trapped in the bottle.”

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A desperate Vietnamese mother clutches her starving baby on her chest as she flees her village. Looking back, she sees the chaos of her hamlet under attack. A Viet Cong soldier has his rifle pointed at the head of a villager on his knees, praying before he’s executed.

Title: The Refugee.

Richard Olsen created the yellow-and-black linocut after returning home following a year’s tour as an Army helicopter pilot with the 33rd Transportation Company in Vietnam. He came back in 1963, and the war in faraway Southeast Asia was not yet fully on America’s radar, so producing these images was his way of sounding an alarm.

“It was like, ‘Hey, you guys, there’s a war going on,'” Olsen says. “Why make pictures of flowers? Why not make pictures of war?”

Olsen had always wanted to be an artist growing up in Wisconsin — he earned a master of fine arts degree — and Vietnam allowed him to create works that he says reveal a “little man swept into a world beyond his control.”

“I had to tell the story … the valiance, the heroism, the sacrifices, the personal giving for causes bigger than yourself,” says Olsen, now a 76-year-old professional artist living in Georgia. “It occurs on both sides.”

Olsen’s work — paintings, drawing and prints — is ripe with pain, sacrifice and patriotism.

There’s a POW, viewed from behind, on his knees, his hands bound behind his back with his shoe laces, waiting to be killed; an eerie bluish outpost at 4 a.m., illuminated by a searchlight; a tender portrait of his bunk mate, a lieutenant who didn’t make it home. And then there’s Hill 881, site of one of the bloodiest Marine battles in Vietnam.

The hill painting was created by copying stencil shapes onto a canvas. It repeats the same scene of three soldiers: one climbing a hill, one higher up, tumbling down after being hit, and the third at the top falling backward as he’s shot. That final image was inspired by the famous Robert Capa photo of the fallen soldier in the Spanish Civil War.

“I wanted to make it an endless plight … of the Marines trying to take the hill over and over and over,” Olsen says. “There’s just an absurd twist to it.”

Olsen moved beyond Vietnam to an artistic career that has spanned more than 50 years; he’s produced more than 1,000 paintings, many of them abstract. His work has been shown in galleries around the country.

Yet those days when he flew his chopper over the dense thicket of jungle maintain a deep hold on him.

“War is the depth of the human experience,” he says. “It’s the most meaningful part of anyone’s life.”

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A stately building in Kabul is consumed by a bomb. Gray clouds of smoke and red bursts of fire billow from the windows. Splashes of red, blue and yellow tents on clotheslines frame the bottom of a degraded print.

Title: Transfer’s of War (triptych 1, part 2).

Ash Kyrie wasn’t an artist before he went to Iraq with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. But after his return in 2004, the former debate champ no longer wanted to follow family tradition and become a lawyer. “I was a different person,” he says. “I wasn’t interested in the same things. I threw away my TV. I wanted to express feelings and emotions.”

He enrolled in art classes at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, read the newspapers religiously and became mesmerized by photos of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. They seemed remote from his experiences, not reflecting the brutality he’d seen.

Over two years, Kyrie, now 31, collected about 1,500 photos from major newspapers and categorized them in three groups: benign intervention, showing U.S., troops following local customs or mingling with villagers; abstract explosions, images that are too far away to show the grisly consequences; and something he called sacrifice — Iraqis and Afghans, killed by each other, not coalition forces.

Kyrie took some of the photos, blew them up into enormous prints and, using a transfer process, altered the images. From a distance, the harsh scene scenes are recognizable, but up close they look like a collection of beautiful crystals.

There is no political message here, Kyrie says, just a way of illustrating the gap between war as it is and the way it is portrayed in the media.

Art, says Kyrie, has helped him come closer to understanding his tour in Iraq.

“I think about the war every day,” he says. “I think about my experience. Every soldier tries to quantify or organize it in some way. I got back in 2004 and I still haven’t come to a conclusion. I don’t know if I ever will. Every emotion you went through goes through your head. You relive it. You remember it. It’s a very intense time being at war. Every moment is memorable.”

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Sharon Cohen is a Chicago-based national writer. She can be reached at scohen(at)ap.org.

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Online:

National Veterans Art Museum: http://www.nvam.org

Marcus Eriken’s work: http://www.marcuseriksen.com

Richard J. Olsen’s work: www.richardjolsen.com

Ash Kyrie’s work: www.ashkyrie.com

 

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/vets-preserve-memories-war-their-own-art

Los Angeles Mag – 2015

“Soldiers Turned Artists” Explores the Consequences of War

In a powerful group show at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, veterans use art to express the impacts of combat

May 26, 2015 Art 0 Comments

“How we forget, that is where the suffering and death is,” says visual artist and Iraq war veteran Ash Kyrie. “As we move away from the event, critical information is being lost, slowly but surely.” In a painful and poignant new show, “Art and Other Tactics: Contemporary Craft by Artist Veterans,” which opened Saturday at the Craft and Folk Art Museum, U.S. military vets from the last 60 years of conflicts seek to remind us of the consequences of war.

Curated by Emily Zaiden of the Craft in America Study Center, this group show brings together a broad range of artists and artworks, from paintings to sculpture to works such as Kyrie’s wall-sized digital photograph. The heavily pixilated image features a young, injured Afghani girl, and is rather messily attached to the wall: the mess is quickly explained, when Kyrie urges viewers to rip bits of the photo off the wall. “Rip it off,” he says. “That’s where the art is!”

The exhibit also hosts well-known names, such as Gulf War vet and potter Ehren Tool, whose war-themed cups have become collector’s items, and newer artists, such as Judas Recendez, who lost both legs in Iraq and now creates using a potter’s wheel adapted for use with a hand pump. Recendez’s “Large Vase,” which is glazed in red iron oxide, inevitably reminds viewers of blood. And so the show not only draws attention to the intersection of war and art, but also to the ways that war affects makers of art.

The most arresting pieces in the show were not, perhaps, the most violent or the most direct: “War Pigs,” for example, a repetitive ceramic sculpture by Giuseppe Pellicano, which shows a row of pig heads adorned with machine gun bullet chains, feels a bit too blunt. But Robin Shores’ sculptures, “Queen Mary Crossing the Desert” and “She Thought She Was the Pharaoh,” both of which are intended to critique now-imprisoned Lynndie England, are wrenching, allusive, and subtly provocative.

“Queen Mary,” which is about 12 inches long, comprises a kind of long boat or canoe, with five little scrub trees for passengers. The sculpture alludes not only to the luxury liner the Queen Mary, but also to Elizabeth I, gliding down the Thames, flanked by courtiers. “She Thought She was the Pharaoh” portrays two figures in a chariot: one, perhaps Cleopatra, stands, holdings reins and chains, while the other grovels, attacked by a dog. The neo-imperialist nature of the Abu Graib incident is made clear in Shores’ work, as well as the historical context for England’s crimes. While Shores’ pieces are small in size, they are among the most powerful works in the show.

Don’t miss Pam DeLuco’s “Paper Dolls,” a graphic work of text and image, which draws upon the experiences of women who have served. DeLuco collected and recorded the experiences of women across many generations and different branches of the military, focusing on female military apparel and appearance. Each woman tells her story, such as the story of a marine being handed a lipstick by her drill instructor, who snapped, “Fix yourself, recruit. But try not to look slutty.” DeLuco teamed up with illustrator Annemaree Rea, who created a paper doll to accompany each participant’s tale. The stories are spare and poetic, and the paper dolls are both delicate and tough.

There is no question that the losses, stresses, and pains of war are reflected in the crafts and artworks contained in “Art and Other Tactics.” “Sacrifice is the most heavily mediated thing that we see,” Ash Kyrie asserts. Be certain that you take the time to honor the sacrifices made by these soldier-makers.

Art and Other Tactics: Contemporary Craft by Artist Veterans will be on exhibit at CAFAM until September 6

 

http://www.lamag.com/culturefiles/soldiers-turned-artists-remind-us-of-the-consequences-of-war/

Military Press 2013

National Veteran Artist Collective Exhibit New Work in San Diego

Upcoming exhibition Local Color will features Ehren Tool and members of the Dirty Canteen, a national veteran artist collective. Installations from the collective will give the viewer an idea of what our soldiers are going through as they try and return to civilian life and what ‘getting back to normal’ feels like for soldiers. The challenges they face are extreme and the general public can become aware of these issues by viewing the exhibition. The Dirty Canteen’s, including Ehren Tool, Berkeley, Mike Dooley and Giuseppe Pellicano, Chicago, Jessie Albecht, Iowa City, and Thomas Dang, Glendale will be exhibiting new work.

Local Color also invites regional artists and veterans to submit one piece of art for the upcoming exhibition Friday and Saturday June 14 and 15th between 11am – 2pm at the Escondido Municipal Gallery. The exhibition has an emphasis on clay and ceramic mediums, but is open to all media. Entry fee is $20 for members and $30 for non-members. The Municipal Gallery is located at 262 E. Grand Ave., Escondido 92025. http://www.escondidoarts.org/

Local Color will open July 12 through August 3, 2013. An opening reception with the artists will be Saturday, July 13 from 5:30 -8:00pm.

Additional Resources:

“I was so enamored with Ehren Tool’s ceramic installations in LA at the Craft and Folk Art Museum; It was the most powerful ceramic statement I have ever seen. I knew at that moment EAP had to bring him to San Diego” – from the EAP executive director, Wendy Wilson

It happens by a stroke of scheduling luck that the Municipal Gallery will show the work of Ehren Tool July 12 – August 3, 2013. Also exhibiting will be members of the national Dirty Canteen veterans collective from across the country. We are looking for sponsorship for traveling veterans coming in to show work from Chicago, Iowa City, Berkeley, and Glendale. Their participation will make for a rich and detailed story by each soldier.

What is life like for our returning soldiers? This exhibition will give viewers a good idea of what our soldiers are overcoming in order to return to ‘normal.’ Ehren makes hundreds of ceramic cups which he freely breaks as he talks about how he misses the friends he lost in the Gulf war. You get the idea that the cups symbolize all of the friendships and relationships gained and lost during wartime.

A component of the exhibition will be the opportunity for local veterans and artists to submit one piece into the Local Color exhibition, which has an emphasis on clay and ceramics. This exhibition is a great way to open up public dialogue about how to help returning veterans. Attached are pictures and below are links to the Dirty Canteen and individual artists websites.

Ehren Tool: http://www.ceramicsnow.org/page/19

Dirty Canteen Veteran collective: http://www.dirtycanteen.com/

Mike Dooley: http://mikedooley.tv/2012/11/frustration/

Giuseppe: http://www.laboratoriodigiuseppe.com/current-works.html

Jessie Albrecht: http://www.jessealbrecht.com/

http://combatpaper.org/artists/albrecht.html

 

 

http://www.militarypress.com/national-veteran-artist-collective-exhibit-new-work-in-san-diego/

North Coast Journal , Gabrielle Gopinath

The Dirty Canteen

A Veterans’ art collective at CR

 

 

A ceramic mug rests in an anonymous space on a flat white surface. The mug inhabits the shot. We get to eyeball its glazed surface for approximately 1.5 seconds before it explodes. A different cup reappears in the same spot. The sequence repeats again and again in Marine veteran and ceramicist Ehren Tool’s 2007 video, “1.5 Second War Memorial,” featured in The Dirty Canteen: Contemporary Art Made by Military Veterans showing at College of the Redwoods. The unseen marksman keeps on shooting at precisely timed one-and-a-half second intervals. He or she never misses the mark, obliterating 99 of them in the course of the video’s one-and-a-half minute running time. There is no commentary. There is no noise except for the clipped retorts of the unseen gun, which is less dramatic than in films.

Ceramic cups are among the most ancient elements of material culture; their broken shards are used to date ancient civilizations. They are still the basic utensils of hospitality in much of the world. Perhaps this is why it feels unseemly, watching hand-thrown ceramic cups lined up one by one for our inspection before being obliterated. It’s obvious that the spectacle of destruction has been produced for us to witness, with us as consumers in mind. This can make a viewer feel implicated. You might ask yourself, aggrieved: What does this wanton destruction have to do with me? Guns don’t speak, but if this one did I’m pretty sure it would be repeating the monosyllabic command: Look. Look. Look.

Flip side of the coin: The experience can actually be quite soothing, once you get used to it. Sit down on the blessedly comfortable gallery bench, relax your eyes, let the video cycle, and see if you aren’t lulled into quiescence. Punctuating gunshots move in and out of phase with the beating heart. Repeating at that speed, violent images anesthetize and blur. That’s entertainment!

The cups are surrogate soldiers. The video is a death-directed timepiece. I asked the artist about the pacing and he wrote in reply: “I made the video and shot the cups with a pellet gun.” If you were to use this video to measure out the number of US casualties in recent conflicts, “for US casualties it (would be) a few minutes. For everyone killed in World War II, all sides, in all theaters it (would be) almost three years. It makes me sad that the video looks so dated and yet is still counting bodies in Iraq and around the world.”

The use of the word “shoot” to describe what one does when operating a camera has become so much a part of common parlance, it’s easy to forget it started as metaphor. Tool’s video forcibly reminds us. Cameras, clocks and guns have more in common than meets the eye — not least a reciprocal interdependency in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, with its insatiable need for new forms of spectacularized violence.

Tool writes in his artist statement: “When I returned from the 1991 Gulf War I was surprised to see a G.I. Joe version of myself, my gas mask and my war, in stores, ‘for ages 6 and up.’

The ceramic cups in Tool’s art multitask — they function as tokens, gifts, photo and video subjects, soldiers, scapegoats and stand-ins. They have a social and conceptual dimension. The artist likes to give them away. When he lectured recently at College of the Redwoods, he said that what he likes about the cup as a form is the potential for communication it holds. Each cup that passes from Tool’s studio into private hands represents an encounter and a conversation. Because of the imagery the cups depict, it seems likely that most of these conversations will be about war.

“I have made and given away more than 14,100 cups since 2001,” Tool wrote. “I believe the cup is the appropriate scale to talk about war. The cups go into the world hand-to-hand, one story at a time.”

He and the other six artists in this exhibition belong to a group of veterans who call themselves the Dirty Canteen Art Collective, defining themselves as “soldiers and humanitarians.” In their current series of exhibitions, collective members aim “to raise awareness about issues veterans face while returning home from conflict.” In this show, artworks by Jesse Albrecht, Drew Cameron, Amber Hoy, Aaron Hughes, Ash Kyrie and Giuseppe Pellicano explore the experience of military service at home and abroad.

There’s plenty to see within the Creative Arts Gallery’s deceptively intimate confines. Artists’ work range across media in the familiar contemporary manner. Albrecht shows illustrative ceramics. Pellicano shows shiny, colorfully glazed ceramic sculptures shaped like bombs. Army ammunitions specialist and Iraq war veteran Hoy shows photographic portraits of women in and out of uniform, accompanied by audio recordings of enlisted women speaking about their experiences of military life. A wall filled with posters, broadsheets, and flyers by Hughes is collectively titled “Celebrate People’s History: Iraq Veterans Against the War — Ten Years of Fighting for Justice and Peace.” Second-generation papermaker, forester and former Army soldier Cameron works with a group he co-founded called the Combat Paper Project, printing combat zone images on sheets of handmade paper that have been made, most improbably, out of military uniforms. And Iraq war veteran Ash Kyrie shows three ceramic bowls with nubby interiors that he calls “skull grinders.” The bowls are, he says, based on Neolithic ceramic forms that allegedly served cavemen as personal massage devices. For what it’s worth, when I Googled that phrase the hits that came up all had to do with bong accessories, but like Emerson once noted, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

The Dirty Canteen: Contemporary Art Made by Military Veterans Is on display at the College of the Redwoods Creative Arts Gallery through Nov. 17.

Ehren Tool’s 1.5 Second War Memorial is posted on YouTube. See more work by Dirty Canteen artists at www.dirtycanteen.com and www.veteransbookproject.com.

https://www.northcoastjournal.com/humboldt/the-dirty-canteen/Content?oid=4132475