If you happen to be in Ithaca, NY anytime between now and June 11th, make sure to check out the exhibit “The War to End All Wars”: Artists and World War I. I ran across a review of this earlier in the week while searching for war photographers. Carol Kammen, a local correspondent, wrote her opinion on the exhibit that is currently on view at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University in the Ithaca Journal. I found it troubling that she opened the article with, “how an art museum deals with history of a particular war is an interesting problem.” I wouldn’t exactly say it is a problem, but it is certainly a field of study, one that Kammen apparently hasn’t looked too far into.
James Montgomery Flagg, Be A U.S. Marine, 1915
On the other hand, she did present an excellent description of the exhibit, once you got past the two paragraphs on parking and public transportation. It seemed as if the curator, Nancy E. Green, wanted to tell the story of World War I, through art. She included poetry from soldiers, propaganda posters, maps, and photos taken from airplanes, clothing, and other such materials that truly told the story of what life was like. What the World War I society must have been like.
Otto Dix, Blinder, 1923
I don’t see this as a problem at all. I feel that there are many ways of looking at the history of war and it is up to the curator’s vision to present it to the world. Jenny Hontz, Exhibit: War Photos of Iraq and Afghanistan is a great example of this. The curator took photographs taken by embedded soldiers and turned it into a fine arts show. Another example would be Bringing the War Home where the curator uses photography in a more interdisciplinary fashion and presents about the backstories of the war. Essentially there are many ways of dealing with Kammen’s “problem, ” and if you look into it further, you will see that it is no issue at all.