Matt Mitchell’s 100 Faces of War Experience fills the gallery at the National Veterans’ Art Museum in Chicago (http://www.nvam.org/upcoming-100-faces-of-war). The 100 full sized portraits convey images of a cross section of those who have served in the war zone in Iraq and Afghanistan.
I recently had a chance to visit the exhibit. Stunning! As I read the many remarks jotted down in a comments book from those that have already seen the exhibit, I could see that it has accomplished the goal that Matt Mitchell and Jim Helling discuss with me in the pages of The Wounds Within. The seemingly endless display of portraits consumes the viewer with the very personal and unique stories of those that served. As I gazed at each image, it felt very personal. Just me and them for that moment as I briefly felt alone with them. I felt moved as I “listened” to each story. At the same time, the sheer volume of this work creates an incomprehensible sense of the total accumulation of these experiences.
Matt’s first portrait was of Jeff Lucey which showed his intention to dive into the deep end of the pool and capture the raw reality of the true stories that he hungered for. Nine other portraits represent those who are no longer with us.
Each portrait is accompanied by a statement from the subject wherever possible. The array of comments are soul searching and intimate reflections. Matt’s portraits as well as the statements can be viewed at 100facesofwarexperience.org. He speaks about 100 Faces on this YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YQYIFPbLF0g.
But if you can find your way to Chicago (easy access and parking one mile off I-90), see it in person. It will absorb and transform you. There are other works at the museum as well. 100 Faces will be there until May 1, 2015.
Mark Nickerson Dec. 23, 2014