Artist soldiers: Their self-expression and humanity in WWI is revealed in exhibit
By Nicole Bauke
via the MilitaryTimes.com web site
In underground quarries, spanning for miles underneath the surface of the quiet French countryside, abandoned, make-shift cities hold touching remnants of World War I.
Sleeping quarters, places of worship, even tables still littered with mess kits, are hidden 50 feet underground, unknown to many people and even historians.
Accompanying these artifacts are drawings, carved into the walls of these cavernous quarries, signatures of the individuals, on both sides of the fight, who came together to serve in the war.
“They created a human world with artwork, with a lot of messages to the future, and jokes and notes to loved ones,” said Jeff Gusky, an artist and physician who explored these cities in 2012. “They recreated, the best they could, a human world underground when the surface of the earth became inhuman.”
When Gusky first saw the carvings, he was awed by the humanity and the humanness that can be found within them, even though their creators were in the midst of fighting a war to change all wars.
His photographs make up half of a current art exhibit at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, titled “Artist Soldiers: Artistic Expression in the First World War.” Artist Soldiers is the centerpiece of the museum’s four-year observation of WWI.
“WWI gives us a language to see ourselves, and how, if we lose humanness we are finished,” said Gusky.
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