Kirsten O'Brien/The AS Review
Veterans Day may have passed, but the exhibit on display in the Viking Union Gallery offers an extended reminder for students to keep veterans on their minds all throughout the year, not just on Nov. 11.
The exhibit, called “Warhorse: Wise to Ways,” is on display in the fifth floor VU Gallery until Dec. 3. The exhibit features art by Western students as well as Bellingham community members. There are a variety of art forms on display, including photography, paintings and mixed media pieces.
Quentin Irion, the Associated Students Veterans Outreach Center coordinator, had the idea to have a veterans-themed show to go along with the other Veterans Day celebrations on Nov. 11. He said that in addition to the ceremony held on Veterans Day, he wanted a more visual way to remind people of veterans and their contributions.
“There wasn’t really a visual in last year’s Veterans Day ceremony aside from the actual speaker,” Irion said. “I felt that having the gallery show would make the Veterans Day experience a more powerful one, and have a greater impact on the audience.”
Irion is a veteran himself, and contributed 678 photos to the gallery show. The photos are arranged in a large mural, and depict many aspects of Irion’s time spent serving in the Middle East.
The exhibit is not limited to art focused on the Iraq War, however. There are also pieces focused on World War II, and photographs from the memorial ceremony for the four Lakewood police officers that were killed last November.
Allie Paul, the VU Gallery coordinator, said that the show offers a diverse group of artists the chance to convey an array of war-related topics through art.
“I think that it’s really important to have a show like this because the students in our community are all going to have varying opinions on the issue whether they know veterans or are vets themselves,” Paul said. “The fact that we have different depictions of war makes for a more cohesive show.”
Josh Durias, a Bellingham-based photographer, contributed a portrait of World War II veteran Buck Compton. Durias said that even though his family is from the Philippines and did not fight for the United States during World War II, he still felt it was important to photograph Buck and honor his contribution to the United States.
“I am constantly learning how important what [the veterans] did was,” Durias said. “I wanted to pay tribute to that. If they didn’t fight, my family and I might still be back in the Philippines.”
Durias said that even if people have not fought in a war or do not personally know any veterans, the show could still be a way to remind people of the battles veterans have fought in the past and are fighting in the present.
“There may be instances where a person may have no connection to World War II, like myself, but having these pieces gives people an opportunity to share why the event was significant,” Durias said. “It opens doors to be able to share those stories. If we didn’t have different pieces up, those conversations may not even happen.”
For veterans like Irion, the show can evoke especially powerful memories. For the photomural, he sifted through over 1300 photos. He said that it was the first time he had looked through the photos in a year since his service.
“When I look at the pieces, it takes me back. It’s nostalgic,” Irion said. “I think about what I was doing that day, what was happening, the heat in the city.”
While the show may have personal significance for Irion, he said that anyone is able to enjoy the art at the exhibit.
“I think the show will help open people’s eyes,” Irion said. “It might be that little bit of encouragement someone needs to shake a vet’s hand and say thank you. It bridges the gap in communication and helps people relate, even if it’s on the simplest of levels.”