Images and discussions of war often focus on the carnage, aggression and generational repercussions. While those aspects are certainly a significant part of the reality, it doesn’t always make the best opener for conversation. “Teardrops that Wound,” a group exhibition at Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, takes an unconventional approach.
Noa Batle’s “Domestic Soldiers” shows the activities of toy soldiers off the battlefield. Yukiyo Kawano’s “Little Boy” is a life-size replica of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The kimono silk piece hangs from the ceiling and is one of the first works in the show visitors see. The United States dropped nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9, respectively, in 1945. The combination of works comes together in a show of beautiful, light-hearted and intriguing artwork.
“What I was hoping for was allowing people, almost like a backdoor into exploring the issues of war,” Guest Curator SuJ’n Chon said. “By inviting people through its humor and its absurdity, would allow people who may come in defensive or closed off or afraid of exploring these issues, that the art would be approachable enough that they could explore those issues in a different way.”
Phong and Sarah Nguyen’s multimedia installation “Break Into Blossom” includes a rusted bomb replica adorned with moss and cherry blossoms surrounded by tall white papercut trees and an audio component. The piece is the visual interpretation of Phong’s book “Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History.” The fictional account offers alternate versions of major historic events including a world where “Little Boy” doesn’t detonate and the nuclear age doesn’t begin. Phong and Sarah, who are also husband and wife, collaborated on the piece.
“It’s such a brilliant response to not only the theme but to the other works in the exhibit,” Chon said.
In “Bombs Away,” artist and Marine reservist Thomas Dang draws on personal experience. The installation is a series of small bombs. The ceramic, resin and glass structures are depicted as having organisms inside them. Dang painted them different colors, and some resemble sharks to further reinforce the cartoonish theme. “Bombs Away” is a snapshot of an incident that happened to Dang while serving in Iraq.
“I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in an open field, we were doing a normal patrol and then all the sudden we’re getting mortared,” Dang said. “What I experienced seemed like, in my head, was probably about 30 minutes to an hour but in reality was probably only about 30 seconds.”
Dang said he relied on the people in his unit not only for safety but for sanity as well. “Bombs Away” is a window into combat.
“Creating that figurative form of what everyone knows that’s destructive. In creating something that is floating, that captures the room and the environment and allows you to want to look at it,” Dang said. “It gives that little eerie feeling, too, because they are sensitive art pieces.”
The work is the nonverbal expression of his life as a Marine and he uses it to connect with others. Dang is committed to reaching out to other servicemen and women because of the rate of suicide among veterans and of PTSD. He’s done art therapy workshops with the VA.
Batle’s little green men bring jocularity to the exhibition. Millions of children have played with the toy soldiers but the artist doesn’t show them fulfilling their primary mission.
One is shown swinging from a tree. Another pair sit on a seesaw next to a pair on a merry-go-round. “Domestic Soldiers” moves past the one dimensionality of the figures.
“I started asking these questions. Why were these soldiers fighting? What were they fighting for? Is it accolades? Maybe defending home? Trying to return to a family?” Batle asked himself. “Thus these pieces became this process of elaborating on their own narrative. Multidimensional narrative, more than just a soldier but these fully fleshed-out characters. Ones that I’m revisiting from my childhood and trying to complete in a way.”
“Teardrops that Wound” is not only visually inviting, it’s also timely. Chon achieves her goal of creating a space where people can sit in the destructiveness and grotesqueness of war.
WHAT: "Teardrops that Wound"
WHEN: Runs until May 20, 2018
WHERE: Wing Luke Museum, 719 South King Street, Seattle
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge, Facebook
Author Angie Thomas explores police brutality through unapologetically Black YA novel
Infinite Vision: Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama illuminates SAM with dots and mirrors
Fragile Figures: Bellevue Arts Museum displays kiln-glass artistry
Wait, there's more. Check out articles in the full August 2 issue.
Real Change is reader supported. Just $5 a month provides work for more than 300 active vendors and keeps community journalism strong.