Responses to war

By: Courtney Mengel ’19, staff writer

Michael D. Fay, former combat artist and adjunct professor of art & visual culture at LVC, and Dr. Tara Tappert, independent scholar and activist, discussed the artistic responses to events from WWI.

Fay and Tappert presented the final lecture of the Fall 18-19 Colloquium series at LVC titled “Beyond Stereotype: WWI, Warriors and the Creative Arts.” The two-part lecture was in conjunction with the Suzanne H. Arnold Art Gallery’s current exhibition “Witness to War.”

Fay began the lecture and discussed how WWI has transformed art, artists and the present. When talking about war and art, Fay immediately went back to WWI because everything connected to it. Fay showed evidence of this through artists such as Henry Tonks, a British surgeon who gave up medicine for illustration. During WWI, Tonks worked with plastic surgeon Sir Harold Gillies to document the progress of injured veterans as they underwent facial reconstructive surgery. These pastel portraits of wounded veterans served as inspiration for the Joe Bonham Project, which Fay founded in 2011. The project serves to document the experiences of the most physically injured soldiers, sailors and Marines through art as they receive medical treatment.

“This exhibition is probably the closest most of you will get to war,” Fay said. “That’s why we use the word ‘witness.’ We want people to witness the veteran experience.”

Tappert discussed the growth of occupational therapy. Over the past century, the therapy has shown the ways in which art heals injured veterans. As Fay pointed out in his part of the lecture, art is not only used to document war but also to rehabilitate veterans. By creating art, music and poetry, veterans can work through the trauma they experienced as a result of war.

“Studies have shown that trauma is stored in the non-verbal part of the brain,” Tappert said.

To continue, Tappert discussed contemporary grassroot organizations dedicated to creative art therapy for veterans. The Peace Paper Project is unique in that veterans make paper out of their used military uniforms. This transformative process is a catalyst for conversations of war experience.

“Witness to War” will run until Dec. 16. For Gallery hours and information about upcoming events, please email