Becoming America Examines the Impact of War

 In MOA Features

Guest post by Alyssa Weyland, MOA Marketing and PR Intern

As we reflect on the stories that have shaped and influenced our lives, we cannot ignore the profound influence of war on our communities, our families, and our individual lives.

Among the landscapes and people featured in the current exhibition Becoming America, a portion of the works bring war—a distant memory in our collective consciousness—to the forefront of the minds.

Rebecca Campbell, Ralph's Bomber Over Bay Bridge

Rebecca Campbell, “Ralph’s Bomber Over Bay Bridge,” 2014, oil on canvas. BYU Museum of Art.

Rebecca Campbell’s contemporary painting Ralph’s Bomber Over the Bay Bridge conveys a story that is at once personal to the artist and relatable to the viewer. The cold, mechanical greys of the airplane spiral forwards, gloriously unstoppable. This painting honors the artist’s uncle Ralph, who fought in World War II and never came home. The painting is taken from an old family photograph. Because of Ralph’s death, Rebecca Campbell’s father had to take up the family farming business, which changed the trajectory of his life and the lives of his children, including the artist. The casualties of war have a long-lasting impact on our individual lives, even if they aren’t immediately recognizable.

Roy Lichtenstein’s lithograph series As I Opened Fire invites us to consider the most prevalent appearance of war in most of our lives—entertainment. The comic book style benday dots, bright colors, and attention-grabbing dialogue contrast as irreverent interruptions to the subject material. Here the details remind us not of the reality of war, but of the way that war is reframed for entertainment. In the context of mass destruction, is it concerning that we spend our time exposing ourselves to the very scenes we sacrificed to avoid?

Claude Buck’s War Protest, painted near the end of World War II, provides a challenging exploration of war’s devastating power. In the painting, the destroyed landscape full of deathly figures stretches on forever, a bleak reminder of war’s constant presence in American history.

These paintings that explore themes of death, war, and destruction are important within the context of the theme of becoming America. War has touched all communities, families, and individuals, and is an integral—and sobering—piece of our nation’s history.

See Becoming America at the BYU Museum of Art, now open through 2021.

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