DEP presented multi-media art experience

Story by Capt. Derek Brown English Instructor

October 12th, 2017 | In Focus, News, News and Features
 Retired Col. Gregory Gadson, U.S. Military Academy Class of 1989, speaks to attendees at the "Coming Home: Journey and Community Dialogue," a multi-media art experience hosted by the Department of English and Philosophy and the West Point Humanities Center, Oct. 4 at Cullum Hall. On the wall are two of Gadson's photography exhibits, on the left is “Troubled Waters,” and on the right is “Out of Darkness, UK Soldier Ride.” The experience was designed to bring together military and civilian communities through art and effective dialogue to help heal the wounds of war.  Photos by Kathy Eastwood/PV
 Caran d'Arche crayon on map of Afghanistan titled "It Ain't Disneyland" drawn by Sgt. 1st Class Welintukonis exhibited during the “Coming Home: Journey and Community Dialogue,” a multi-media art experience hosted by the Department of English and Philosophy and the West Point Humanities Center, Oct. 4 at Cullum Hall. The exhibit is a yearly event inspired by artist, writer and activist Brookie Maxwell, designed to bring together military and civilian communities through art and effective dialogue to help heal the wounds of war.

The U.S. Military Academy and the Department of English and Philosophy hosted the “Coming Home: Journey and Community Dialogue” multi-media art experience at Cullum Hall Oct. 4-7.

Normally located in New York City, the project is designed to bring together military and civilian communities through art and effective dialogue to help heal the wounds of war.

The exhibit featured the works of New York City artist, the late Brookie Maxwell; photography from retired Col. Greg Gadson, USMA Class of 1989; and original music from the West Point Band.

The exhibit opened Oct. 4 with a reception with more than 70 cadets, faculty, staff and guests in attendance.

The distinguished military guests included the entire USMA leadership team with Superintendent Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr., Commandant of the Corps of Cadets Brig. Gen. Steve Gilland and Dean of the Academic Board Brig. Gen. Cindy Jebb in attendance.

Additionally, the opening ceremony honored the exemplary vision of the “Coming Home” exhibit leadership team: “Coming Home” creator—the late Maxwell, retired Lt. Gen. John Caldwell, Gadson, Art Director Guzal Latypova and Program Director Ellis Maxwell, Brookie’s son.

In addition, the DEP welcomed students and faculty from Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

Col. David Harper, head of the DEP, opened the evening’s events by describing the “natural” and “long linkage between art and warfare.”

Harper recalled Homer’s “Odyssey” in which “Odysseus weeps as he listens to a Bard tell the story of the battle for Troy,” and Virgil’s Aeneid where “Aeneas is moved outside of Carthage by a mural that depicts the fall of his homeland.” Like the heroes of classic literature, modern-day warriors and civilians continue to face “the question about whether we can really go home.”

As Harper explained, “Sometimes being home is enough. Sometimes what we cannot tell, we can paint. Sometimes what we cannot explain, art, be it photography, sculpture, music, film or writing, can explain.”

Following opening remarks, the West Point Band played a moving series of solo performances, including a piano performance from Sgt. 1st Class Yalin Chi, a clarinet performance from Staff Sgt. Sam Ross, and an original trumpet, vocals and electronics performance entitled “Voices” from Staff Sgt. Bill Owens.

Next, Ellis Maxwell moderated a powerful panel discussion on the role of the arts and humanities in healing the wounds of war.

Panelist and DEP instructor Maj. Josh Leone described his time after being wounded, and noted how medical terms can begin to define a person during the recovery process, but “arts, poetry and literature can help someone try and re-establish their new norm and get control of their story.”

Community developer, artist and entrepreneur Rolando Brown shared his story about growing up in a violent community in New York City, and asked, “What is available to us to build bodies for both love and war?”

Gadson described his painful recovery from a 2007 IED blast in which he lost both of his legs and the use of his right arm and hand. For Gadson, the loss of his arm and hand “was the death blow” because he “couldn’t hold and use a camera.”

Gadson captures life through photography, and often chooses his wheelchair over prosthetics in order to sit on a stable platform.

Gadson encouraged the cadets in the room to share their artistic passions, and not hide them. He claimed that while artistic endeavors may seem incompatible with the warrior culture, artistic skills are necessary because “winning warfare is about the art… there is no equation to win the heart and mind of someone: it is deeper than science.”

To close out the opening night, numerous cadets and faculty shared poetry and short stories related to the various themes of “Coming Home.”

The following day, cadets and Haverford College students continued to discuss these and other topics at an academic workshop led by the exhibit leadership team. Additionally, the exhibit remained open through Saturday and welcomed hundreds of military and civilian guests.

For more information about future “Coming Home” events or to see the artwork, you can access the exhibit website at http://www.cominghomejcd.com/.