William Betcher, Todd Bradley, Binh Danh, D. Clarke Evans, Suzanne Opton, David Pace and Stephen Wirtz, Allison Stewart
October 29 – December 6, 2020
Virtual Reception October 29, 2020, 7 PM
See our Events page for a full list of Artist Talks for each of the artists of this exhibition.
Preparation for Tours of Duty has been ongoing for almost 2 years. It includes the photographs of William Betcher (from the Boston area) with War Games, Todd Bradley (from San Diego) with War Stories I Never Heard, Binh Danh (from San Jose, CA) with Military Foliage and One Week’s Dead, D. Clarke Evans (from the San Antonio area in Texas) with Before They Are Gone: Portraits and Stories of World War II Veterans, Suzanne Opton (New York State) with Many Wars, David Pace (from the San Francisco Bay area) and Stephen Wirtz in collaboration with WIREPHOTO and Allison Stewart (from LA) with Bug Out Bag: The Commodification of American Fear.
The exhibition was developed under an overarching idea; in this case Tours of Duty. A “Tour of Duty” usually refers to service in the military. It commonly refers to time spent in combat or in hazardous conditions. I chose work with a broader brush however, focusing also on those who serve in a crisis that are not necessarily military personnel.
Under the Tour of Duty title, we have thematically linked 8 solo exhibitions and 8 photographers under one roof. Each exhibition stands on its own with individual titles but there are common threads that hold the exhibitions together.
This exhibition is not rooted in politics. It is more about what we can see, learn, feel and understand about war through the photographs and videos themselves without a narrative to guide us. How did the legionaries of the Roman Empire differ from the soldiers in World War II or other modern day wars? What is it like for a family at home with a soldier off at war? What are the many ways these photographers have approached the topic of war? What is it like to return home from conflict? There will be different questions and answers for different folks. Empathy however may be the impetus to finding pathways to peace making.
Researchers believe the first wars took place long before history was recorded. There is evidence of a prehistoric war along the Nile River. Archaeologists found a large group of bodies with arrowheads lodged in bones. The remains have been dated to 13000 BC. The first war to be recorded by historians is said to have been fought in 2700 BC. It’s the 21st century. The threat of war surfaces still in pockets of the planet. We hope for the day when “all swords are fashioned into ploughshares and there will be war no more.” – PFT
Tours of Duty includes the following photographers with further details.
Todd Bradley War Stories I Never Heard is in the Main Gallery
Todd Bradley (b1970, Detroit, USA) has lived in San Diego for over 30 years; 20 of those with Walter, Todd’s husband, and their 2 Rat Terriers; Gus and Hank. Self-taught with occasional classes and workshops; he draws inspiration from photographers Lori Nix and David Levinthal. As an artist, Todd uses different mediums and styles to express his views. Todd’s work focuses on decay, whether it is organic, structures, or our society.
Todd believes the current state of photography is mirroring the early 1900’s when Kodak introduced the Brownie camera to the masses. Today, we have the cell phone. In both times, Cameras became common and artists took notice. As the Modernists once did, Todd wants to push the medium in new ways. Using a tradition photography foundation, he digitally altering his photographs or use micro dioramas to discuss social issues facing us.
Todd was named 2017 “New Talent of the Year” by the London Creative Awards and has exhibited in numerous group shows in museum and galleries worldwide. His work has been published internationally. Todd is also a founding member of Snowcreek Collaborative, a collective of fine art photographers in San Diego.
War Stories I Never Heard explores the impact of discovering a loved one’s World War II military stories after his death, and the longing for a deeper personal connection with him after he is gone.
My grandfather Raymond Bradley was just 21 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 to fight Hitler’s Nazi regime that was taking over the world. Hitler had been trying to create a superior race by killing the “unfit,” including Jews, the physically/mentally handicapped, and homosexuals. I am gay and I recently discovered a small percentage of my ancestry is Ashkenazi Jewish. Had I been living in 1944, my life would have been in danger; my grandfather was fighting for me 75 years ago without his knowing it.
After he passed in 2008, I was given a small box of photographs and mementos of my Grandpa Ray. I knew he had fought in Normandy, but it never registered as anything important. But all of a sudden, holding his stripes and medals in my hands, I needed to know about his time in battle. Due to the limited number of photos from D-Day and bits of information written on the backs of photos he saved, I created dioramas to fill in the gaps and recreate scenes from photographs my grandpa had kept. I tell about his time serving in the Army during WWII through still-life arrangements of memorabilia, photo collages, and our genetic DNA codes (specifically, my Y-chromosome code which is the same as my dad and grandfather’s codes), which symbolizes our family lineage and my personal connection to my grandfather.
Binh Danh, Military Foliage and One Week’s Dead is in the Main Gallery.
Binh Danh (MFA Stanford; BFA San Jose State University) emerged as an artist of national importance with work that investigates his Vietnamese heritage and our collective memory of war. His technique incorporates his invention of the chlorophyll printing process, in which photographic images appear embedded in leaves through the action of photosynthesis. His newer body of work focuses on nineteenth-century photographic processes, applying them in an investigation of battlefield landscapes and contemporary memorials. A recent series of daguerreotypes celebrated the United States National Park system during its anniversary year.
His work is in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The DeYoung Museum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography, the George Eastman Museum and many others. He received the 2010 Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation, and in 2012 he was featured artist at the 18thBiennale of Sydney in Australia. He is represented by Haines Gallery, San Francisco, CA and Lisa Sette Gallery in Phoenix, AZ. He lives and works in San Jose, CA and teaches photography at San Jose State University.
Military Foliage statement is excerpted from an essay by Lori Chinn, Curator Mills College Art Gallery
“Military Foliage is an installation of framed chlorophyll prints. The series illustrates camouflage patterns that the military uses for their uniforms. Camouflage attire is meant to render the invaders less visible in hostile territory. Danh also prints the patterns onto living tropical leaves through the process of photosynthesis, embedding them with artificial designs, so that, ironically, nature is now masked. According to Danh, the remnants of war still exist in the landscape and the plants act as witnesses to the violence that has taken place on one country’s soil, “The landscape of Vietnam contains the residue of the war, blood, sweat, tears, and human remains. The dead have been incorporated into the soil of Vietnam through the cycles of birth, life, and death, the transformation of elements, and the creation of new life forms….
In addition, jungle foliage often served to conceal the North Vietnamese, both military and passive civilians, triggering the devastating defoliation campaigns with Agent Orange.” – Lori Chinn
One Week’s Dead statement is excerpted from an essay by Laura A. Guth, Associate Director at Light Work from 2007.
“Regardless of generation, cultural background, or level of direct involvement with war, we cannot escape being touched by the faces in Binh Danh’s series, titled One Week’s Dead. Danh collects photographs and other remnants of the Vietnam War and reprocesses them in a way that brings new light to a history marked by painful memories. A main source of the images is the 1969 Life magazine article, Faces of the American Dead: One Week’s Dead.1Portraits of two hundred forty-two young American men, casualties in one week of the war, were presented in a yearbook style layout, triggering a powerful public response: “the entire nation mourned those soldiers…you saw those faces, that’s what brought it home to everyone.”2
Danh returns these faces to the public’s attention nearly four decades later. Using photosynthesis, he incorporates the portraits into the cells of leaves and grasses, symbolic of the jungle itself bearing witness to scars of war that remain in the landscape. Danh’s method is based on a principle as simple as leaving a water hose on the lawn too long. The cells in leaves react to light by turning dark green, or the absence of light by turning pale. Danh is able to create images onto leaves, not by printing onto them, but by capturing the image within the leaves. By imprinting faces of war casualties and anonymous soldiers from the battlefield, Danh encapsulates remnants of history in the biological memory of plant cells. Through this process, he recycles collected news images and snapshots from an isolated past and memorializes them in the present. The final product, leaves embedded in resin, transform the source images into precious, yet permanent artifacts…..” – Laura A. Guth
Suzanne Opton Many Wars is in the Main Gallery.
Suzanne Opton is the recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship. Her soldier portraits, icons of the aftermath of the current wars, have been presented as billboards in eight American cities, and have sparked a passionate debate about issues of art and soldiering. The conversation continues on the blog at SoldiersFace.net
Suzanne’s work lives on the edge between documentary and conceptual. She often asks a simple performance from her subjects as a means of illustrating their circumstances.
Her photographs are included in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, Cleveland Museum, Dancing Bear collection, the International Center of Photography, Fotomuseum Winterthur, Library of Congress, Musee de l’Eysee, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Nelson-Atkins Museum, and Portland Art Museum. She has received grants from the NEA, NYFA, and Vermont Council on the Arts. Suzanne lives in New York and teaches at the International Center of Photography.
The warrior held a place of honor in society since the time of Sophocles. In making these portraits I wanted to suggest that although weapons may change and the proximity to killing may change, relatively changes little in the realm of how warriors are affected by combat and the struggle to overcome their training. I gave each veteran a piece of fabric. He could be a boy with a cape, a warrior, a king, a homeless person or even a martyr. Here are veterans from five wars. The portraits were primarily made on the day we met in a group therapy room at a VA clinic in Vermont. It was an open-ended collaboration. I am grateful for their trust in me and in the process.
David Pace/Stephen Wirtz, “WIREPHOTO” is in the Main Gallery
David Pace is a Bay Area photographer, filmmaker and curator. He received his MFA from San Jose State University in 1991. Pace has taught photography at San Jose State University, San Francisco State University and Santa Clara University, where he served as Resident Director of SCU’s study abroad program in West Africa from 2009 – 2013. He photographed in the small sub-Saharan country of Burkina Faso in West Africa from 2007-2016 documenting daily life in Bereba, a remote village without electricity or running water. His African photographs of the Karaba Brick Quarry were exhibited in the 2019 Venice Biennale in a group show entitled “Personal Structures.” *
Pace’s images of rural West Africa have been exhibited internationally and have been featured in The New Yorker, The Financial Times of London, National Geographic, NPR’s The Picture Show, Slate Magazine, The Huffington Post, Wired, Verve, Feature Shoot, PDN and Lensculture among others. A monograph of his project Sur La Route was published by Blue Sky Books in the fall of 2014, and an exhibition catalog was published in 2016 by the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, CA. His collaboration with Stephen Wirtz, Images In Transition, was published in 2019 by Schilt Publishing of Amsterdam. His work is in the collections of the San Jose Museum of Art; the Portland Museum in Portland, OR; the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, CA; the Triton Museum in Santa Clara, CA; the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University; the Microsoft Collection and Museum Villa Haiss in Zell, Germany. Pace received the 2011 Work-In-Process Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and was a finalist for the 2015 Gardner Fellowship in Photography at Harvard University. He is represented by the Schilt Gallery of Amsterdam.
Pace has been a member of the Board of Directors of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art for 24 years. He is currently the chair of the Curatorial Committee. He is a member of the Acquisition Committee of the San Jose Museum of Art, and the Photography Advisory Board of Foothill College. He previously served as President of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Camerawork.
Stephen Wirtz is a collector of photographs and a former art gallerist. With Connie Wirtz he co-founded the Wirtz Gallery in San Francisco, exhibiting national and international painting, sculpture, and photography for forty years.
*Over the past few weeks beloved photographer, David Pace passed away. He will always be in our hearts and his photographs will be on our minds. For more information see our tribute to Dave Pace on our blog.
The Wirephoto project is a collaboration between photographer David Pace and gallerist/collector Stephen Wirtz. Wirephoto re-interprets historical images from World War II that were transmitted by radio wave for subsequent publication in newspapers. The photographers are unknown and no known negatives survive. Pace and Wirtz begin with rare original prints, which they examine and radically re-crop to create new compositions. The selected details are then scanned, digitally enhanced and enlarged to make 16”x20” prints. The new scale magnifies the inherent imperfections and artifacts of the original transmission process and reveals the extensive retouching that was done to the prints both before and after transmission. Cracks in the emulsion bear witness to the age of the transmissions and add a layer of history. The alterations to the original images force us to consider the notion of truth in journalism and documentary photography as well as the role of propaganda in war photography.
William Betcher War Games is in the Griffin Gallery.
William Betcher’s photographs have been exhibited in juried shows at Danforth Art, including the New England Photography Biennial, and at the Catamount Arts Center. His work has been featured in shows at the University of New England, the Mass Audubon Habitat Center, the Heart of Biddeford Gallery, Massachusetts General Hospital, and in the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital, as well as in Solstice Magazine. His book, Anthem, For a Warm Little Pond, was included in Photobook 2016 at the Griffin Museum. He is the author of four other non-fiction books. He received a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Boston University, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, and an MFA in fiction writing from the Vermont Center of Fine Arts. Currently, he is the photography editor for Solstice, a Magazine of Diverse Voices, and he is a psychiatrist in private practice in Needham, MA.
War Games is composed of macro photographs of as found, damaged, vintage toy soldiers from the 1930’s through 1960’s. Why were these broken toys not thrown away? Because they were important to the children who played with them, and because they have stories to tell.
Consider the boys and the men they became as implicitly present in these portraits of British, American, and German soldiers. And I invite you to reflect on war trauma and on how play mirrors and prepares for adult experience. Both long ago, and now.
The portraits take the form of one-of-a-kind, 4”x5” wet collodion tintypes that I place in 19th century brass matte cases, and 36”x24” dye sublimated aluminum prints. I also create action images and dioramas, often “dragging the shutter.”
My purpose is not to glorify but to evoke through metaphor. As the Civil War soldier and jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., said on Memorial Day, 1897, “The army of the dead sweep before us, wearing their wounds like stars.”
Allison Stewart Bug Out Bag: The Commodification of American Fear is in the Founders Gallery.
Allison Stewart grew up in Houston, Texas and currently lives in Los Angeles, CA. She received her MFA in Photography from California State University Long Beach and her BFA in Painting with a minor in Art History from the University of Houston. Allison travels the United States exploring the construction of American identity through its relics, rituals, and mythologies. Her work has been published and exhibited internationally, including Cortona On The Move, the Aperture Foundation, The Wright Museum, The New Mexico History Museum, The Griffin Museum of Photography, The New Republic, Die Zeit, Wired, Mother Jones, and Vogue Italia. Her work has been honored by the Magenta Foundation, IPA, the Texas Photographic Society, and the Houston Center for Photography. Her work is included in the Rubell Family Collection, The New Mexico History Museum Palace of the Governors Photo Archive, the University of Wisconsin Alumni Association, and private collections. Allison is a founding member of the Association of Hysteric Curators.
Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Superstorms. War. Martial Law. The Rapture. The Zombie Apocalypse. Bug Out Bags are manifestations of the fears and obsessions of the 21st Century American. The Bug Out Bag is the most basic piece of gear for disaster preparedness. It is usually a backpack or an easy to carry duffel bag containing the essentials needed to sustain life for 72 hours, or to possibly begin a new civilization. As I traveled the different regions of the United States I met liberals and conservatives, atheists, evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons. They are prepared and they are prepared to help others. Each bag becomes a portrait of its owner, showing us their most basic needs and also their fears in the face of environmental and global change. The contents reflect the survivalist instincts and character of each owner. Everyone I meet tells me that preparedness is a necessity in Post 9/11 America. They are eager to discuss their fears, share tips and some even share their resources. Most are community minded but some are fiercely independent. Independence is a fundamental principle when describing the American character. We praise the self-reliant man and credit him for the shining city upon the hill, but America has changed and our fears are running rampant. The new self-reliant American no longer experiences transcendence in nature as Thoreau once did, but instead, escapes to nature in an effort to hoard and protect property. Prepping has become a capitalist enterprise, banking on our fears and desires for stability.
D. Clarke Evans Before They Are Gone: Portraits and Stories of World War II Veterans is in the Atelier Gallery.
D. Clarke Evans, a graduate of Brooks Institute of Photography, served in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1964-1970 and was honorably discharged as a Sergeant. He has a Master of Arts degree in Museum Science from Texas Tech University. He is the recent Past President of the Texas Photographic Society (TPS), www.texasphoto.org, a non-profit fine arts photographic organization. Under his leadership, TPS sponsored 54 exhibitions that were shown in 21 Texas cities, New York, Florida & California. Through sister organizations in Europe, TPS exhibited Texas artists in France, Italy, Germany, and Greece. While Clarke was President, membership increased from 100 Austin based members to over 1,250 from 48 States and 11 countries. The Board of Directors honored him with the title of President Emeritus.
Dick Cole’s story changed the course of my life. We met at one of the first Monday of the month breakfasts I attend with other Marines, in which we honor World War II veterans. I started attending these breakfasts several years ago when I began photographing and interviewing U.S. Marines. However, I had too little time to fully pursue the project as I was team photographer for the San Antonio Spurs. That Monday, when Lt.Col. Cole, ( in his 90’s like all WWII vets), told me his story, I knew that I needed to take these photos and give testimony to these stories now! After 25 years as the Spurs photographer, I retired to begin the project “Before They’re Gone: Portraits and Stories from World War II Veterans.” Dick Cole was Medal of Honor winner Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the famous Doolittle Raid on Tokyo in April 1942. It was the U.S.’s response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cole is a genuine American hero, one of Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation.” In this project I honor veterans, revealing snapshots of their lives. Each is photographed and interviewed in their home, to offer a fuller picture of their life before, during and after their service. The finished image is 13×18, framed to 18×24, accompanied by an 10×13 biography, featuring interview highlights and a small photo from their active duty days. This project will preserve important stories and memories of World War II veterans. Many WWII veterans became quite accomplished in later careers. Their office walls reflect those accomplishments, displaying awards, plaques and medals. Entering veterans’ homes, determining a suitable shoot location, lighting the subject and environs, and creating an exhibition image is an ambitious undertaking that I love. Each participant is thanked with a 7×11 photo framed to 14×17. The project will result in museum and gallery exhibitions and a book. These rapidly disappearing Americans represent this “greatest generation” of more than 16 million Americans who served. Fewer than 400,000 remain, and approximately 400 die each day. Soon there will be no veterans alive to recount their experiences. This urgency propels me to take their portraits and record their stories now. Photographing ”The Greatest Generation” has been the experience of a lifetime. These veterans are humble, grateful, with most being sharp as a tack. I believe my father said it best when I queried, “Dad, describe World War II to me in 25 words or less.” He glared at me and harshly said, “It was four years of just trying to stay alive.” My one overriding goal is to photograph these veterans with the dignity that they deserve.