The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art has opened the doors for its newest exhibition, “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” which explores the juxtaposition of the American and Vietnamese experience of the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The exhibit will run through December 9.
Artists Dinh Q. Lê, Sheila Pree Bright, Keisha Luce and Kirk Torregrossa are featured, as well as Northern Vietnamese propaganda posters from The Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection. The exhibition was inspired by the campus-wide reading of Tim O’Brien’s book The Things They Carried, a fictionalized account of the author’s time as an American soldier in Vietnam.
“The cultural, physical, and emotional dissonance explored by these artists raise many questions regarding the burden of war,” said Elizabeth Peterson, curator and director of the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, “It’s a legacy that crosses borders and is carried through generations.” Peterson joined the museum in August 2012.
Bright’s Young American series features photographs of young adults in various poses with the American flag. Bright wants the body language of the models and the different positions of the flag to raise questions about what it means to be an American in Generation Y. Each photo is named after the person photographed and is accompanied by a personal statement which reflects the person’s ideas about being American.
Lê’s large-scale photographic collages contrast photos of the Vietnam war with iconic Hollywood imagery to contrast the realities of war with the Western perspective of it. Lê was born in Ha-Tien, Vietnam, emigrated to Los Angeles at age 10, and now splits his time between America and Vietnam. His collages are made up of photos woven together using traditional Vietnamese techniques and are inspired by his own memories of the war, both real from his childhood in Vietnam and imagined, inspired by American war movies.
Luce’s sculpture series Sum & Parts depict the malformed bodies of Vietnamese people living with the effects of long-term exposure to Agent Orange, an herbicide used in the Vietnam War. In an interview with Vermont Public Radio, she says, “they are difficult bodies to look at. Part of what I was trying to do is to bring this type of body—the war body—into the public sphere.”
Torregrossa’s photographs help to achieve this goal by allowing viewers to see both the sculptures and the people that inspired them. They document every step of the two month long Sum & Parts journey, and Torregrossa says of his series, “my intent is to craft a story that illustrates not only the horrible long-term effects of chemical warfare, but with resiliency and bravery, how the people involved soldier on.”