Jane Irish’s art exhibit, War Is Not What You Think closed this Thursday. It was a collaborative exhibition between La Salle’s University Art Museum and the Connelly Library. Through the exhibit, Irish wanted to show the visual culture of the Vietnam War, and also to show the way we interpret war. The exhibit showcased her paintings as well as film, poetry, and works by Vietnamese artists.
One section of a cyclorama by Irish, painted in stark blues and rusty reds took her about six months to complete. Another section took three weeks, painted in varying shades of blue using ink on paper. Irish felt the cyclorama made a more striking impression than what a viewer would get from a black-and-white photograph from the period.
Other paintings on exhibit were completed by Irish during two consecutive trips to Vietnam. Those paintings are accompanied by poetry from artists who were living in Vietnam at the time of the war. The poems reflect their experiences.
The Connelly Library features a special collection of visual resources on the war. Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War contains some twenty thousand items including novels, screenplays and sound recordings. Library curator John Baky, who is a Vietnam veteran, said that the exhibit is not about the war, but more about the setting for the war. The artists intentions were to give a voice to often painful emotions about the war, emotions that are still fresh for some. Bakey said that the Vietnam War writers “give us the gruesome, matter of fact elocution of telling the truth, in hope that wars like the Vietnam War will be ceased by an act of will and imagination”.