A Talk On x Combat Art Collective collaboration with the support of talented artists across the country.
(FYI, scroll down for a handy TL;DR version of what’s below for the mouth-breathers out there)
Here’s the story: Combat Art Collective (CAC) and the Talk On reached out to artists for contributions to a conversation about the American war experience. Our mission is to build better relationships between the military/veteran and civilian communities through storytelling. And while the Talk On promotes all creative content generated by veterans, the vast majority of work on the site has been writing or interviews. No attempt to explain the GWOT experience to a civilian audience would be complete without creative visual aids. So, Talk On teamed up with CAC, whose mission is to make art a viable career opportunity for veterans, to inject some more color and content alongside the words we’ve posted. Together, we released Buried Alive, an essay that had been featured on the Talk On, and asked artists from any background, training, style, and age group to think about how the essay affected them and come back with something original in return. We pushed “send” and held our breath, fully expecting crickets. But in less than 24 hours, we had our first submission, and after a few more weeks (and some holiday delays on our part), the rest trickled in, and we think we have the start of something interesting here.
Beyond the essay that ties these pieces together, there were no themes, rules, or limitations of admission. We received work from artists just beginning their education, and from others who’ve had time to hone their craft. For some, art may be a hobby and for others, it’s a career or a lifeline. A few chose to stay close to the text as they created their work, enhancing and defining the words on the page, while others locked onto something internally that took their work in a wholly different direction. Some are veterans, others are military family or civilian, and if we didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know the difference, which is kind of the idea after all. We aren’t critics, and we’re not really curators, we’re just trying to find a way to share a war with people who, in the absence of a draft, never had to go. We think these talented artists help advance that conversation tremendously, and we hope you like it (and there’s lots more to come).
Read the piece in its entirety (don’t worry, it’s not long) and then take a look at what was created in response. Submitted works, along with a statement and information about the artist, are posted below in the order in which they were received.
TL;DR: People like pictures, so we asked a bunch of talented strangers to make us some pictures based on a story we wrote. They’re all really cool. Check it out.
“By the end, the moon dust had embedded beyond the threads and seams of our clothing and bled into our skin and lungs and veins, and we knew we’d carry it back home with us when we departed Helmand. Our relationship with it had become inextricable.”
“Years passed, and while the physical presence of the moon dust had faded into memory, its absence felt like the phantom tingle of a long lost limb.”
“We fought, exercised, relaxed, and ate together, always together, shaking the silt out of our clothing and hair, and scraping it off spoons and forks of food. It mixed with sweat from long patrols and blood from open wounds, creating a vile mud that caked and stained our bodies. We endured all of it as a team…”
“…I reached into my pocket and found a handful of fine silt. I let it slowly slip through my fingers and fall quietly to the ground, some particles floating away in the warm breeze, and I smiled as I thought of my brothers from Helmand, whose veins coursed with the same sand as mine. Finally, I shook off all that remained on the outside and went down to the edge of the water to join my family.”
“The dust descended around us as we moved towards our new home…the suddenness of our arrival deadened by the deep sand that seemed to suck us downward into the earth. With every step, clouds of the stuff would fly into the air and hang in space, defying gravity before falling slowly back into place. The depth of it silenced the sounds of our movement, and in the quiet, I had time to marvel at how I came to find myself at…war so far from home.”
“As time passed, the world shrank around us until our waking minds could reach no farther than a few hundred meters beyond the outpost’s sandy walls. In these days, weeks, and months, we trudged between our tent to the outpost command center and back, kicking up hurricanes of dust. “
“As we departed in a long slow convoy, the dust seemed to overtake the outpost in an instant, reclaiming its rightful space in full. “
“The dust descended around us as we moved towards our new home in the steppe, the suddenness of our arrival deadened by the deep sand that seemed to suck us downward into the earth.”
If you are a veteran writer who wants to share their work to be interpreted on future Call & Response projects, or an artist (veteran, civilian, spouse, whatever!) of any kind who would like to be included in the next project, please Contact Us to let us know about your interest.