In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln promised, “to care for him who shall have borne the battle.” While organizations like the VA have striven to uphold that promise, the far-reaching effects of war continue to spread. “It creeps and touches so many lives,” said Larry Thompson, professor at Samford University and creator of the upcoming exhibition, The Infanttree Project.
“As an artist, you know, we’re always looking at what’s going on around us,” said Thompson. “[E]very once in a while, something bothers you enough to get up and make work about it.” For Thompson, that something involved soaring suicide and PTSD rates among veterans and plummeting awareness among American citizens. He created The Infanttree Project as a way to bring attention to the unspoken impacts of war.
The exhibition, which includes both sculptures and paintings, reflects a number of issues that soldiers and their loved ones face. The art is especially vocal about the loss of life as a consequence of war, as is seen in a massive sculpture, “The Infant Tree.” The theme is also present in “Quiet Noise,” a painting that combines the white stones of Arlington National Cemetery with vibrant television screenshots.
Thompson painted the piece after a visit to Arlington. “[T]hat place was so quiet,” he said, adding that he was “amazed” that broadcast media focus more on the noise of reality show results than coverage of deaths overseas. “It’s easier to not think about the fact that somebody may have died in Afghanistan today,” he said.
The exhibition will be on display at Space One Eleven, a nonprofit gallery which hosts after-school and summer programs for at-risk children. Space One Eleven houses exhibitions that “deal with contemporary issues,” according to CEO and Co-Founder Peter Prinz. Currently, the gallery’s windows hold works by Thompson, Michael Williams and Mary Ann Sampson, whose piece addresses the idea of being a woman and bearing children during war. “I think it fits great with the exhibition,” said Prinz, who is excited to share all of the art with the public. “We hope people come and start some critical dialogues.”
In conjunction with The Infanttree Project, Samford University will host a collection of art entitled Reflections of Generosity – Reflections of the Soul. The collection comes from the Reflections of Generosity Foundation, founded by retired Army Sergeant Ron Kelsey, which explores the use of art therapy to help those affected by war. A number of the resulting pieces will be displayed alongside Thompson’s exhibition at Space One Eleven.
The opening reception for The Infanttree Project will take place on September 11 from 5:30-7 pm. Space One Eleven will also host a number of workshops designed to complement the exhibition, in addition to a panel discussion on November 11. On September 10, the Samford exhibition will host its opening reception, followed on the 11th by a panel discussion moderated by Thompson and featuring Kelsey.
For Thompson, the exhibitions and events have one important purpose: “To remind people of what has happened—what is still happening.”
The Infanttree Project is free and open to the public. Space One Eleven is located at 2409 Second Avenue N. in Birmingham. To learn more about both exhibitions and the surrounding events, visit Spaceoneeleven.org and Samford.edu/arts/art-gallery. For more information about the Reflections of Generosity Foundation, visit reflectionsofgenerosity.com.