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From uniforms to art

Combat Paper at Alumni Hall through Oct. 30

October 20, 2010
HAVERHILL–Today they are works of art, sheets of paper with beautiful images on them, but at one time they were uniforms, worn through the sights and sounds of combat during many of America's major conflicts of the past 65 years.

Through Oct. 30, the Combat Paper Project will be exhibiting these works of art at Alumni Hall. The drawings are all made of uniforms, transformed into paper by the veterans who wore them in service to their country as part of workshops run by the Combat Paper Project, out of Burlington, Vt. Around 100 veterans from World War II through the Iraq War have gone through the project.

Around 30 works of art from five different artists are on display.

"We provide a space for veterans to present and discuss the military experience," said Drew Cameron, one of the founders of the project, himself a veteran of the U.S. Army in Iraq, who served both on active duty and in the Vermont National Guard from 2000 to 2006. "It's a positive thing to help show people where we're coming from."

Cameron said the weeklong workshops, which generally have between 12 and 20 people, teach the veterans the techniques of making paper by hand. They break down the uniforms, first by removing patches and buttons, then cutting the uniform into small pieces, which are put into a pulping vat. Cameron said converting the uniforms into pulp, from which the paper is made, is transformative for many of the veterans.

"Deconstructing the uniforms on the first day is often the most intense, when people feel the biggest change," he said.

During that first day the veterans talk about their experiences, where they served, the units they were in, and who they served with. They then learn the technical aspects of paper making, how to create paper pulp out of fibers.

Keisha Luce, the director of Alumni Hall, said she first saw the exhibition in Boston earlier this year and wanted to bring it here.

"There are few places where people can meet veterans from the current wars or learn about their experiences," Luce said.

During the opening of the exhibition last Friday, around 50 people turned out to meet the artists and look at their works, which led to a very interesting discussion between the veterans in attendance and the visitors, Luce said.

"There was as lot of discussion about how veterans returning from overseas cope with reintegrating back into society," Luce said.

"It's really important for the community and veterans to connect with one another," Luce said.

Luce said that while the material is what makes the exhibition unique, at the same time the quality of the artwork was excellent.

"It was a very thoughtful and diverse body of work and not all dark and gray," Luce said.

The exhibition will be open Monday through Friday noon to 4 p.m. through Oct. 30. During special performances at Alumni Hall the exhibition will also be open so people can view it.

Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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