The Great War and Me

“The Great War and Me” is a series of paintings and drawings based on my Grandfather’s experiences in WWI. It was only after accidentally finding his journal that I learned about his involvement in The Great War.

After enlisting in the army, he was sent to France with Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force. There, he spent most of his time burying horses and repairing shell-holes in roads that had been bombed. Nonetheless, he saw horrific casualties in the Meuse-Argonne, as well as suffered the death of his beloved older brother, Ike, just weeks before Armistice.

The center piece of the series is a ‘still-life portrait’ of my Grandfather. At the center of the table, is his tiny journal, which he entitled “The Great War and Me”. This tiny book is at the physical and emotional center of the painting. Everything else in the composition radiates around it, like planets in a constellation. A photo of his brother, Ike, and Ike’s recovered watch lie close by. The still life table contains the reconstituted parts of a man; the uniform is his chest–the medal his heart; the helmet, his skull– the gas mask his lungs; the mess kit, his stomach–the entrenching tool, his strong arm; the journal, his thoughts– and the watch, his very life’s pulse.

The painting is a resurrection- a bringing something back to life. Almost eighty years later, my wife and daughters and I used his army surveillance maps to find the very fields where he saw battle, as well as the exact location of Ike’s field grave.

To me, there is also a great mystery to the box underneath the table, as if, after re-assembling and looking at these objects, they could be taken down and put away, for someone else to contemplate at another time and place.