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New art exhibition at Blue Star Contemporary explores the veteran experience

Image courtesy of Blue Star Contemporary
The Veterans Book Project features snapshots and reflections of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, their families, and Iraqi civilians.

Blue Star Contemporary is hosting a new, veteran-focused art exhibition that runs through Oct. 9. It explores the realities of war and challenges popular conceptions about who veterans are. 

Travel Distance, a group exhibition conceived by Army veteran and independent curator Amber Zora, explores how veterans and their families move through and understand their experiences around military service.

Image courtesy of Blue Star Contemporary
Ceramic plate installation by Jessica Putnam Phillips

“I imagined a service member leaving home and traveling away from their homeland, their family, to serve their community or country, and them being on this odyssey — and also gaining knowledge about themselves — and then their return home,” Zora explained.

Travel Distance features images and objects from deployment, as well as from the homefront. As a collection, it explores different facets of the veteran identity, showcasing veterans as parents, siblings, immigrants, Indigenous peoples, environmentalists and more.

“I think that some people have a certain idea of what a military member is,” Zora added. “They think American Sniper, or like some type of big box movie, when you can be from a military family and not really be like that. It doesn't mean that your whole house is decorated in American flags.”

The exhibition features the work of Miridith Campbell (Kiowa), Joe Devera, Claudia Hare, Jenn Hassin, Gina Herrera, Jessica Putnam–Phillips, Daniel Rios Rodriguez, Renee Romero, and Sarah Sudhoff.

Accompanying the collection is The Veterans Book Project, a library of 49 books authored by artist Monica Haller and dozens of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, their family members, and Iraqi civilians.

“The content of the books is predominantly photography,” said Jack McGilvray, curator for Blue Star Contemporary. “There are also books that feature a lot of prose, poetry, or reflections. Some of the participants were also visual artists. So there also might be art objects, or documentation of art objects in the books. But a lot of them are photographs that people took while they were deployed.”

The installation has a reading room format with tables and chairs, inviting visitors to spend time studying and reflecting on the books. Notecards are also available so attendees can write down their observations and share them with others.

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Carson Frame can be reached carson@tpr.org and on Twitter at @carson_frame