IN WAR AND AFTER: The Art of Combat Veterans curated by Ken Hruby at Rocky Neck

The creative response to military service is vast.

Several Gloucester and Cape Ann artists and writers were veterans officially engaged as combat documentarians and/or military artists, like Larry O’Toole (1908-1951), marine artist, official USCG artist and WWII Veteran.

Ron Gilson visiting Larry O'Toole oils commisioned ca1945 by Ben Pine for YMCA and Master Mariners moved to Essex Shipbuilding-  then O'Maley ©c ryan.jpg
Author and historian Ron Gilson viewing Larry O’Toole murals at O’Maley Innovation School, originally commissioned by Ben Pine ca.1945; after fire and demolition, temporarily relocated to Essex Shipbuilding Museum ; rescued and returned to Gloucester by Raye Norris. When he was a teenager, Gilson helped O’Toole with general art handling-studio assistance such as readying and moving these murals.


Addison Center’s 1866 portrait of Ulysses S. Grant is to the left upon entry in City Hall. (On the right is a 1946 memorial commission by Marguerite Pearson to 5 WWII marines: Sherman B Ruth, Ralph Greely, Wilfred Ringer, John M. Sweet, and Robert M. Maguire.)

Others created art in response to their service experience like fine artist, Robert Stephenson (1935-2013).

Good Morning Gloucester readers have been following an indeliable original illustrated series, Stories from Vietnam, with illustrations and writing by David Hussey. The Gloucester Writers Center established a Veterans Writing Workshop in the fall of 2013 and published a compilation book, The Inner Voice and the Outer World, launched in December 2017.  Cape Ann Veterans Services brought copies of the children’s picture book, Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhoodand super volunteer readers, into local Kindergarten, first and second grades to read aloud in the classes. Copies of the book were gifted to the classroom libraries. (Veterans: Heroes in Our Neighborhood ©2012 is by Valerie Pfundstein with illustrations by Aaron Anderson and foreword by John Vigiano Sr., a Marine Veteran and retired FDNY Captain, who honors his sons’ memories –both lost on 9/11– by volunteering his time and resources to Gold Star families and wounded heroes.) Gloucester native and Gold Star mother, Anita Coullard Dziedzic, helped support this outreach through Cape Ann Veterans Services, to honor her son Sgt. David J Coullard.

© c ryan Bradley Smith poet and veteran
Artists-veterans throughout Cape Ann. Bradley Smith, poet, veteran

NEXT MONTH, Rocky Neck Cultural Center will present a visual arts group exhibition featuring artists who are currently active or served in the military curated by fine artist and veteran Ken Hruby:

IN WAR AND AFTER: The Art of Combat Veterans, Curated by Ken Hruby
May 17 – June 24, 2018

Courtesy photos credit info and press release below from Rocky Neck.

  • Mourning the Loss of a Comrade, GySgt Michael Fay, USMCR- Served in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan
  • Walking in Two Worlds, US Army Signals Linguist Cara Myhre, Served in Iraq, Afghanistan
  • Haunting Memories, Lt. Col. Deveon Sudduth, US Army, Served in Iraq
  • Ready for Ga Noi, Sgt. Robert Louis Williams, USMC, Combat Artist, Served in Vietnam
  • Woman Marine, GySgt Michael Fay, USMCR, Served in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan
  • Through The Elephant Grass, Sgt. Robert Louis Williams, USMC, Combat Artist, Served in Vietnam

PRESS RELEASE – “The Rocky Neck Art Colony (RNAC) proudly presents “IN WAR AND AFTER: The Art of Combat Veterans”, a multi-media, juried exhibition of over sixty works by more than thirty combat artists from the military services and by veterans making art from their experiences in zones of combat…Congressman Seth Moulton of the 6th congressional district of Massachusetts, himself a Marine Corps veteran of four tours in Iraq, states of this exhibition, The ‘incommunicable experience of war,’ as Oliver Wendel Holmes once described it, indeed often defies explanation by words alone. That veterans can share some of their experience through art can help us all better understand what they went through. And as a veteran myself, who returned to war with a camera after I left the Marines, I know how cathartic art can be for those of us who were there. The work of combat artists is important for civilians as well, to deepen their understanding of the lives of our service men and women, and their families. “In War and After” is an a very important exhibition for both communities.”

Few people are aware that when US military forces go to war, some of them carry, in addition to their weapons, their sketch pads, graphite pencils, watercolor brushes and cameras. These are combat artists, tasked to not only serve the combat mission but to record that mission in ways only an artist can.

(press release continued)

…Men and woman have served in this capacity from WW II to Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

One such person, Robert Louis Williams, a Cape Ann fine artist and RNAC member, was a Marine Corps infantryman and combat artist in the Vietnam War. It was upon learning of Bob Williams’ service that the RNAC ventured to prepare this exhibition. It presents not only the work of official combat artists, but of veterans of combat who chose later to express their experiences through the visual arts.

This exhibition celebrates the vibrant art communities have arisen among military veterans of war across the United States. One representative of this is the exhibition curator, Ken Hruby, a US Military Academy graduate, veteran of Vietnam, noted sculptor and faculty member at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University in Boston. Ken’s installations have been widely exhibited, the latest in a recently completed exhibition sponsored by Long Island University in Brooklyn.

IN WAR AND AFTER: The Art of Combat Veterans” presents the lives of combat servicemen and women, both active and veteran, in ways that break through the images and stereotypes presented in film and other media. The textures of these lives have too often become disconnected from, and misunderstood by, the civilian community. This exhibition seeks, through the powerful medium at art, to enhance understanding and connection. It presents the work of artists from all over the United States in multiple media; sketches from battlefields, encampments and military hospitals, oils on canvas, sculpture from bronze and wood, watercolors on paper, video, poetry and more. Peter Wernau, President and CEO of Wernau Asset Management, and a major supporter of the exhibition writes, “We are proud to support our veterans and humbly strive to live by the values they set for our country of loyalty, courage and integrity.”

No one comes home from a war unchanged. Combat veterans who are artists have the means to process those changes that are both cathartic and expressive. This exhibition explores the wide range of veteran’s responses to being “in war and after”, from the very literal through the abstract to the conceptual in a deliberate attempt to represent as wide a range of response by veterans as possible. After reviewing the submissions to the exhibition, curator Ken Hruby states, “As a veteran of Vietnam and an artist, I’ve been waiting a very long time for this show. It offers the public a wide variety of the amazing work of combat artists and other veterans. It’s been a joy and an honor to be involved.”

  • Location: Cultural Center at Rocky Neck, 6 Wonson Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
  • Gallery Hours: Thurs – Sun, 12:00 – 4:00 PM in May, 12:00 – 6:00 in June
  • Opening Reception: Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 3:00 – 5:00 PM
  • A Discussion with Andrew Bacevich: Veteran, Gold Star Parent, Military Historian, Commentator  Sunday, May 20, 2018 at 6:30 – 8:00 PM, The Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01930
    Co-sponsored with the Cape Ann Forum
  • Exhibition sponsors include: Wernau Asset Management, and a major supporter of the exhibition

5 thoughts on “IN WAR AND AFTER: The Art of Combat Veterans curated by Ken Hruby at Rocky Neck

  1. Thank you to all this is another special one!! Save so many to my USB!!! Thanks Catherine for the heads up here! 🙂 Dave & Kim 🙂

    Could say I have experienced this even before my Military service retired now- (Father Korean War service).

    Liked by 1 person

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