Past Exhibits
Fragments: an archeology of memory
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Fragments: an archeology of memory


Kendall Johnson and Dennis Smith

October 26 through November 30, 2018

Throughout history, veterans have taken on the role of storyteller whether through visual art, poetry, music, performance or around the kitchen table.  It’s the community’s responsibility to listen.

Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #18
Mixed Medium

Therapist: I’m serious! Freud said that sort of thing could leave lasting scars.

Me: No way! It was just a fragment. It’s out of context. I can’t even . . . It’s a symbolic image, a fantasy, a metaphor.

Narrator, off stage: And there you have it. The fundamental problem of memory: at best it’s a reconstruction! So if you pull it up you have to ask how much of it is embellished to fit the need of the moment—like impressing your therapist.

Therapist: O.K., your dime.

 

 

Dennis Smith
Korean War
Second statue to be installed at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden
Steel and welding rod
Courtesy of Dick & Roz Sumner

A sword lies broken
at the 38th parallel.
There sits a soldier
head in hands
remembering.

 

Kendall Johnson and Dennis Smith explore fragmented memories of their experiences in Vietnam through their paintings, writings and sculpture.

Dr. Johnson, who lives in Southern California, has been trying to make sense of his war zone memory fragments through his paintings and writings. He shares with us his many-layered mental, emotional and physical experiences as well as the processes of excavation that inform them. The title of this initiative is taken from the title of his body of work.

Mr. Smith is the artist responsible for creating the sculptures at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden in Weed. He, like many others, carried so much emotional pain with him when returning home. Yet, he feels more fortunate than many because sculpture was a positive way for him to deal with this pain…to speak of his experiences through his art and thereby move forward toward repairing his soul.

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Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #11
Mixed Medium

The hole is dark and endless
leading past all that we were taught,
beyond right and wise we learned
more than was good to know.

Will one’s war go away in time
through therapy, drug, or prayers,
may we sometime lay down arms
our jungle twitches and sand nightmares?

Or carry this elephant forever
back bent and partially blind
and walk our set perimeters through
a lifetime of foreshortened days?

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Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #27
Mixed Medium

A disheveled marine in the psychiatric ward in the Yokuska Naval Hospital stands in a defensive posture, holding off the other circling patients with a razor blade.  Nobody says anything, but everyone maneuvers, weighing the chances of taking him down.  Too much drugs, though.  No one trusts their reflexes.  Finally the big hayseed corpsman from Nebraska—the one who talked to him for an hour before the windows got punched out—brings him down with a mattress so no one is hurt

A .50 Caliber machine gun somewhere hammering in Sotto Voce.

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Dennis Smith
The Nurses
Fifth statue to be installed at the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden
Steel and welding rod
Courtesy of Suzanne & Gene Breceda

They bring healing to places
rife with injury and death.
God love ’em.
They saved so many.

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Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #26
Mixed Medium

At lunch there was no place to eat, so one of the vet families invited him to join them and they drove into town. The restaurant was right out of Iowa, and so was the family. Everyone else had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, while he pushed around a salad and felt much too California. They all took turns asking him questions— even the two young girls, who seemed taken with this exotic stranger. One asked, “What did you do in the war?” Conversation paused while everyone studiously chewed fried chicken.

“I was on a boat,” he replied.
“Did you kill anyone?” she persisted. “Daddy did.”Everyone suddenly wanted peas passed, and bread and butter. Wasn’t the gravy great? He mumbled something, and had visions of ghostly souls rising out of the jungles.

“Not directly, exactly,” he finally managed. One of the wives looked sympathetic, but no one really knew what to say after that. The gulf seemed to widen. He could hear the artillery in the distance. The arc light shell flooded the midnight shoreline jungle with silver light and black shadows. The boat rocked as they drifted, waiting.

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Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #21
Mixed Medium
Courtesy Inland Empire
Museum of Art

 

Coming back from liberty in Yokosuka, quite drunk, carrying a friend over my shoulder, one of the nights casualties over my shoulder and rolling him into his crew compartment. That was when I was still trying to stay with it.

 

Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #16
Mixed Medium

The snake lies coiled

dark in darkness

 

She waits patiently,

watching.

 

 

 

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Dennis Smith
Escape
Steel and welding rod
Courtesy of Dick & Roz Sumner

Orders came in today
they want to make a drill instructor
(of all things) out of me.
I can’t see it though.
It would mean another 3 years
in this green machine, so today
I submitted my “intent to get out”.

 

Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #17
Mixed Medium

“Now all hands on deck! Man overboard!” We spilled out into a black night with 5’ choppy swells and cold, stiff wind, and the ship frantically reversing course. Somehow we found him swimming in the darkness and pulled him into a long boat. Later I saw him in the head shaving, under guard. It turned out he had risked drowning to be able to go home. There were sharks and poisonous sea snakes in that water and we might not have found him at all. I envied his resolve.

 

Dennis Smith
Why
First sculpture to be installed at the
Living Memorial Sculpture Garden
Steel and welding rod
Courtesy of Suzanne &
Gene Breced

Through the arts
we have the means
to peacefully consider violence
and ask the imperative question.

 

 

 

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Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2016
Vietnam Fragments Series, #10
Mixed Medium

Ground pounders, fast boat gunners, and up close soldiers. I used to watch them, safe from my ship, doing daring and intimidating stuff as I retreated inside. And later, in the hospital, as I got closer to their pain, I came to see their engagement as sort of comprehensible, at least if you make some wild assumptions about the transience of living and ephemeral nature of pain. Still, it was another world, one that was not mine. Hesitant then, conflicted now; I was nevertheless marked as were most, each according to our own temperaments, each to our own hell.

 

 

Kendall Johnson
Untitled, 2013
Vietnam Fragments Series, #4
Mixed Medium

Experiment with journaling:

“Left Brain” (right handed writing):
The semi-clear plastic surface overlies mottled gray background, standing as memory over the territory it seeks to illuminate. Yet the surface is not clear but marked with gestural slashes, squiggles, letters, etc. Colors range from forest greens to adobe red, black and Payne’s gray to white. The markings were done rapidly, almost like the surrealist’s automatic writing, with brush and dripped paint. The plastic surface is worn, fractured and has large gaps where the gray background shows through. If the plastic section is memory, that memory is not complete; it stands as partial, blurred, alternately intense and vague.

“Right” Brain (left handed writing):
Chaos, people, symbols, red dirt/green
foliage, blown out areas. The background is
worn and scratched. I don’t know if this
painting more deeply shows the entire war,
my state of mind during the war or after, or
my memory of the war.

 

 

 

Dennis Smith
Taps
Steel and welding rod
Courtesy of Scott Durbin

 

There are some things about which
one should either say a great deal
…or nothing at all.

 

 

 

 

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Liberty Arts is honored to present the centerpiece exhibition for the countywide Veterans in the Arts Initiative, a program of the Siskiyou County Arts Council, funded in part by the California Arts Council.

Fragments exhibition photography by Sharon LoMonaco.

Funded in part by the California Arts Council, a state agency.

 

Liberty Arts Hours of Operation
Liberty Arts, 108 W. Miner Street in Historic Downtown Yreka, CA 96097
Summer Hours ~ Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 ~ 5:00
Academic School Year ~ Tuesdays CLOSED to the public for Explorations Outreach Program
Sunday & Monday ~ CLOSED
530 842-0222

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