Comtemporary Art Gallery featuring photos, interviews of Vietnam veterans
Contact: Christina Chapple
PORTRAITS OF WAR – Jeff Wolin’s portrait of Mark Scully, a U. S. Army First Lieutenant who served in Vietnam from June 1968-June 1969, is one of the 50 photographs of veterans, accompanied by their personal stories, in an exhibit currently being shown at Southeastern Louisiana University’s Contemporary Art Gallery.
“Vietnam War: Portraits and Text,” will be on display at the gallery in East Stadium through Aug. 28, said Gallery Director Dale Newkirk. A closing reception is planned for the final day from 4-6 p.m. Newkirk said the reception will begin with a lecture by Wolin, the Ruth N. Halls Professor of Photography at Indiana University.
“Jeff Wolin has had a long and distinguished career photographing individuals who have experienced a particular part of history,” said Newkirk. “He documents them in contemporary time, using supporting text to tell their personal story.”
“This exhibit presents a great opportunity for our students and members of our community to see how Jeff Wolin’s photographs contribute to our understanding of how the trauma of war affects both combatants and civilians,” Newkirk said. He said Southeastern is extending a special invitation to all area Vietnam veterans and their families and friends to view the exhibit.
Wolin began interviewing and photographing Vietnam War veterans in 1992, the same year he began a similar project with Holocaust survivors. The latter project became a traveling exhibition and book, “Written in Memory.” In 2003 Wolin resumed his work on the Vietnam veteran project. As an official partner of the Veterans History Project, Wolin’s videotaped interviews will be archived at the Library of Congress.
The 50 veterans pictured in the exhibition represent a broad range of war experiences, as well as different attitudes about war and peace. Some served in the war’s early days, others during the time of de-escalation. Their roles ranged from chaplain’s assistant and Vietnam translator to combat soldier. To create a visual “before and after,” Wolin includes a snapshot of each individual during the war along with the contemporary portrait and war story.
“This exhibition is about how the lives of veterans today are perpetually informed by their lives then,” Wolin said. “We can all talk about ‘War’ in the abstract, and about how it advances or distorts American interests. But we only occasionally get to see the faces and hear the voices of the people who actually did the fighting.”
Wolin said he hopes that his photographs and interviews will “make a contribution to our understanding of how the trauma of war affects combatants, and civilians caught in literal and philosophical crossfire. Many important issues of war and peace emerge in the stories of these veterans and in the portraits themselves.”
He said some the veterans he pictures suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some continue to wear their Vietnam War medals, while others fight for veterans’ medical issues, create art or write books about their experiences.
“Others have found ways to put their experiences behind them, often with significant struggle, and to successfully return to civilian life,” he said. “All were deeply and permanently affected by the war, but the majority are proud of their service.”
Wolin's exhibit opened at the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago in 2005 and began traveling to museums in the United States and abroad last summer. Umbrage Editions of NYC published the accompanying book, “Inconvenient Stories: Vietnam War Veterans.”
Wolin’s photographs are in the permanent collections of numerous museums including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Bibliotèque Nationale de France in Paris.
He is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is represented by June Bateman Fine Art in New York and Catherine Edelman Gallery in Chicago.
Contemporary Art Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., weekdays, with extended hours until 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. For additional information, contact Newkirk at (985) 549-5080 or (985) 549-2193.