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Sharon Butler: "Considering the Art of War"

Occasioned by a visit to The Joe Bonham Project at Storefront Gallery, Sharon Butler has some interesting thoughts about the role of art versus illustration at Hyperallergic.

Earlier in the month I was working on an essay about Jarrett Min Davis, an artist who depicts battle scenes. With paintings by Francisco Goya, Otto Dix and Leon Golub as well as military-themed work by younger artists like Steve Mumford and Davis on my mind, I looked forward to The Joe Bonham Project at Storefront. Curated by New Criterion managing editor James Panero, the exhibition comprises portraits of injured United States and coalition military personnel made by members of the International Society of War Artists and the Society of Illustrators who have served in the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq. As I looked at images of multiple amputees, my heart went out to the soldiers depicted and I appreciated both the illustrators’ technical ability to evoke the injured soldiers’ pain and loss and their desire to draw attention to the challenges facing wounded veterans. At the same time, lacking a compelling point of view other than empathy, the drawings don’t rise above the illustrative to examine deeper truths about the legacies of war.

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Cry for help

In my family, I always thought of myself as the artiste. The independent one, who charted her own path not exactly in line with the mainstream.

My brother seems to be proving me wrong.

He lives in an exotic foreign locale, I live five miles from where we grew up. He's marrying an exotic foreign woman, I'm marrying someone I took ice skating lessons with when we were six. He's working on a "project" on his iMac from home. I'm performing administrative tasks within a bureaucracy.

Need I go on?

I'll go on.

He toots around sun-filled streets of said fancy locale on an expensive new bike he can fold up--just like that--and take on the subway, when it pleases him. I spend 1.5 hours daily on the subway trudging my way on the wheel like everyone else.

What's wrong with this picture?

Inside I'm still "different," aren't I?