Dear Friends –
In times of trouble, artists respond and artists reflect. Two exhibits at Mia, Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975 and Artists Reflect: Contemporary Views on the American War give visitors a poignant picture of the turmoil and anger during these years. The exhibits move on January 5, so don’t miss the opportunity to remember, or learn about the war years if you were either too young or yet to be born.
I lived through the Vietnam war years, and as a Chicago resident, clearly remember the upheaval at the 1968 Democratic National convention. I also recall Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko’s biting article entitled the “B-52: That Bird of Peace”.
He was referring to the December 24, 1972 bombing campaign in which the biggest- ever bombing campaign by US B-52 aircraft dropped explosives on North Vietnam.
Looking at Mia’s collection, we can see more examples of how artists have viscerally reacted to other wars. Goya was one of the first to portray horror, and not heroism in his 1810-1820 prints of the Disasters of War. He responded to the inhumanity of the bloody uprisings that followed Napoleon Bonaparte’s occupation of Spain in 1807. It is said that Goya’s shocking images influenced Ernest Hemingway’s violent portrayal of the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War in For Whom the Bell Tolls.
In Pablo Picasso’s famous painting Guernica, he gives us a harrowing account of the bombing and killing of civilians in a Basque town at the onset of the Spanish Civil War. At Mia, Joan Miró’s reaction to the war is captured in his painting Head of a Woman.
Also at Mia, Henry Moore’s Warrior with a Shield depicts the heroic defense of his homeland during World War II. The artist wanted to show the strength and resilience of this severely wounded soldier, struggling to protect himself with a shield in his remaining hand. Moved by this powerful figure, a recent Art in Bloom floral artist chose to interpret it in flowers.
In spite of the devastation and displacement that wars bring, human resilience prevails. Take for example, #43 by Hmong artist Cy Thao– part of a series illustrating Hmong migration in the wake of the Vietnam War. A heart-warming scene of celebration, it shows Hmong immigrants enjoying time off work for the U.S New Year.
May your holidays abound with peace and warmth!