The War Experience Project

24 Oct

Few people ever experience the crucible of war: the stench and sounds of combat. The threat of death delivered by sniper fire. The stretches of numbing boredom alternating with paroxysms of adrenaline-wired violence. Few see it, but those who do are changed. “In war there are no unwounded soldiers,” said Argentinian writer José Narosky.

Iraq veteran and artist Rick Lawson is no stranger to war’s unseen effects. His first-hand knowledge of how combat duty may subsequently alter the lives of military veterans inspired him to create the War Experience Project, a unique program in which service members paint their stories onto uniforms.

Lawson, a Bellingham resident, was a specialist with the Washington National Guard in Balad, Iraq, from 2004-2005. He says that like many soldiers, upon returning home he had trouble answering the often invasive questions friends and even strangers had about his combat duty. While settling back into civilian life, and seeking direction, he enrolled at Western Washington University – a turning point.

Untitled, by Rick Lawson

During a humanities course on art and social responsibility, students were asked to respond to the 11th-century Bayeux Tapestry, a work which portrays the Battle of Hastings. The detailed embroidery is “the storyline of war,” says Lawson, and his reaction to it was visceral. “You don’t really know what you’re asking me to do,” he told instructors. “This isn’t an easy question.”

After some reflection, Lawson took out his Iraq military kit, buried in “the deepest, darkest part of my closet so I wouldn’t have to access it.” The box released a flood of memories: “I could fully embrace it or I could put it away.” Soon he found himself engrossed in four hours of painting on a uniform. “It was a very intense experience to paint on the back of it, and cathartic as well.”

That first painting session was the genesis for the War Experience Project, which seeks to help veterans who have served in any of the world’s conflicts to process their memories through painting. Lawson says that the art workshops, conducted in a private setting, offer an intuitive outlet for soldiers who find it difficult to verbalize their experience. Spaceworks Tacoma is supporting the project with a three-month residency at 906 Broadway; the exhibition will open on Veteran’s Day, Nov. 11, with a full day of activities from 10am – 6pm.

Lawson says that Tacoma’s proximity to Fort Lewis and the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, in Bremerton, gives this exhibition special relevance, and he encourages military service members to participate. His personal, war-related art has been shown in Canada and the UK; the pieces compiled for the War Experience Project may travel the world. The War Experience Project, 906 Broadway, opening Nov. 11, 2010.

8 Responses to “The War Experience Project”

  1. Suchmaschine October 27, 2010 at 6:42 am #

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  2. generika apotheke November 8, 2010 at 9:44 am #

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  3. spaceworkstacoma November 9, 2010 at 9:03 pm #

    Thanks for your question. You should be able to subscribe to the Spaceworks feed by clicking on “RSS” (in the right-upper corner of the blog, in red, right next to “Apply”). Once you do that, another page will open up and there should be a link you can click on to subscribe to our feed (near the top of the new page). Click on this, enter in the appropriate information, and you should be all set!

  4. spaceworkstacoma November 10, 2010 at 5:57 am #

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  1. Spaceworks Artists in the News « - November 24, 2010

    […] The War Experience Project, an exhibition organized by artist and Iraq veteran, Rick Lawson, was the subject of a special edition of the KBTC program, Northwest Now, earlier this month (check listings for rebroadcast times). Because of its unique mission of helping veterans to tell their stories through art (using uniforms as a canvas), and its relevance to the Puget Sound military community, the WEP has received extensive media coverage since it opened on Nov. 11. More than 50 uniforms are on display at the gallery at 906 Broadway. Lawson will conduct on-site painting workshops for vets through mid-Feb., 2011. Hours: Wed. – Sat., 10am – 5pm; Sun., noon – 5pm. Information at (347) 927-3708, or contact […]

  2. What Would You Do with 3 Months Free Rent? « - January 27, 2011

    […] Rick Lawson introduced a special, one-of-a-kind exhibition to Tacoma in the War Experience Project, which has been extended through April. Lawson, an Iraq veteran, says that after a slow start, the program has attracted a growing number of vets interested in making art at the drop-in center. The exhibition centerpiece is a somber and fascinating collection of uniforms painted by military men and women. The WEP calendar includes events such as movie screenings, a book signing, a service dog presentation, and live music. A KING-5 interview with Lawson about the exhibit garnered an Emmy Award. The WEP is open by appointment at 906 Broadway; information at (The War Experience Project extends special thanks to Major General Timothy Lowenberg and Mary Lowenberg, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Leneweaver, Major Matthew Cooper and Catherine Senn for their support of this project.) […]

  3. The War Experience Project Open House is April 15-17 « - April 9, 2011

    […] of the most searing exhibitions of art about war to hit Tacoma is the War Experience Project at 906 Broadway. During his current Spaceworks residency, Iraq veteran and WEP curator Rick Lawson […]

  4. Spaceworks Spring Opening, April 21, 5-7p.m. « - April 19, 2011

    […] 906 Broadway, don’t miss the closing reception for the outstanding War Experience Project, featuring uniforms painted by military veterans. This powerful exhibition carries viewers into the […]

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