We missed an intriguing exhibit late last year of oil paintings influenced by the Vietnam War by Philadelphia artist Jane Irish. The exhibit, entitled “Paintings for Winning Hearts and Minds, ” was on view at Philadelphia’s Locks Gallery last December and January. You can take a virtual look some of the work on line at http://locksgallery.com/exhibit/2007/irish/irish1.html
Irish, who calls herself a “history painter, ” comments on the politics of war through her work. Her huge oil paintings are combinations of oddly juxtaposed, peaceful appearing, pastel-shaded vignettes, many of them of lavish interiors, that include often-jarring first-person reflections on war in raised, white-lettered text. That’s why the paintings have titles such as “The Thousand Yard Stare/Room With a Yellow Sofa, ” “Thoughts on A Monsoon Morning/Orange Room, ” and “Multi-Colored Dining Room/Winning Hearts and Minds.”
The artist was inspired after doing research at the Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War collection at LaSalle University’s Connelly Library. That unique collection, which has been under the supervision since 1975 of the archivist (and Vietnam veteran) John Baky, contains plays, films, literature, posters and music of the Vietnam War.
Irish found the words for the paintings from the work of a group of top Vietnam War veteran/poets, including Basil Paquet, Jan Barry, David Connolly and W.D. Ehrhart . Ehrhart, a Philadelphia native, will receive the VVA Excellence in the Arts Award at the VVA Leadership Conference on July 19 in Greenville, South Carolina.
Locks Gallery is located at 600 Washington Square South in Philadelphia.