Dr. Tara Leigh Tappert, the art editor for The Journal of Military Experience’s third volume, and a person as ingratiated with the veteran art community as one can get through her various roles as editor, curator, college instructor, and non-profit leader, recently said that Giuseppe Pellicano was “the real deal” when asked which artists we should put a spotlight on leading up to the release of our next volume.
The staff of Military Experience and the Arts agreed, choosing Giuseppe’s Tea Time as the cover art for the JME 3. Giuseppe served in the United States Army as a medic from 2000-2004, earning the rank of sergeant and doing tours in Germany, Kosovo, and in the continental US. Tea Time is part of what Giuseppe calls his “Grenade Series,” a set of “photographic illustrations of the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on soldiers and their families. The grenade symbolizes attempts to reintegrate into civilian life. It was chosen for its three uses which can be mirrored in those who suffer from PTSD.”
He continues, explaining those “three uses,”
Grenades are used for attack whether in self-defense or offense; they are used to signal for help, and also to provide cover. Soldiers who suffer from PTSD often become defensive and lash out due to increased anxiety, they may also seek help to find consolation, or in many cases hide their suffering and detach. It is important to understand their struggles and recognize the battles they continue to face when returning home from conflicts.
Tea Time certainly pops with its vibrant color scheme and deceptively simple imagery. It is the potential the piece has to instruct under scrutiny, however, that made us chose it for the cover. Giuseppe’s work represents the imperative of providing veterans with a venue in which to express themselves, a place in which lessons that can only be given by those who’ve worn the uniform can take place.
Whereas most civilian artists would appropriate the grenade solely as a weapon and means of destruction, Giuseppe’s interpretation approaches the true complexity of post-traumatic experience, one representative of subjectivity and nuance.
Giuseppe’s use of the grenade underscores the cultural gap pervasive between military and civilian cultures. Soldiers see three uses, civilians only one. Similarly, there exists a tendency to treat all cases of mental illness among troops as the same. His use of a little girl evokes a discomfort in the audience that, within the context of a generation that so vocally “supports the troops,” forces them to question its source. Essentially he turns the damaging gaze of the stereotype upon itself, forcing the audience to examine its preconceived notions about veterans and the struggles they face upon returning home.
But that’s just one interpretation…What do you think?
Military Experience and the Arts’s Katt Blackwell-Starnes recently did a Q & A with Giuseppe to learn a little more about his work, motivations, and plans for the future. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: What are you currently up to?
I am pursuing my MFA in Fine Arts, but currently taking a break. I am also a member of the Dirty Canteen, which is a collaboration of artists. Our work hopes to initiate a conversation about current and past events that revolve around War, politics, and healing. We are developing a Documentary about our work, process, and commitments to the arts. Other than that, I am currently focused on a work entitled the Grenade Series. I am diligent in this process as I feel it is an important topic and as such, this work could be used to raise awareness about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My research is based on discussions with other soldiers and families who find this illness challenging as they search for healing. Their stories are my inspiration and I feel that if I rush the series, I may not reflect their hardships, healing process or means to reintegrate accurately. This has been my most successful work in regards to reaching out to those who don’t quite understand PTSD. With these photos, I have been able to find exhibition opportunities as well as have been awarded both Best in Show and First Place in this year’s National Veterans Creative Art Festival.
Q: How did you become interested and involved in military related art?
I returned to school three years ago. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to study, but thought that if I got out of the confines of my home, I could begin to reintegrate. I took a Ceramics course at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. With the guidance, support, and understanding of three professors, Christine Rabenold, Wendy Koenig, and Kate Pszotka, I began to learn how to express myself through art. I found something that provided me with an outlet. I then decided to major in Studio Arts. As I worked on pieces, I was asked to research artists. This led me to find other military artists such as Ehren Tool, Thomas Dang, and Drew Cameron who inspire and motivate me. This network continued to grow and I came in contact with more amazing artists who I am now close friends with and cherish their advice and the knowledge they so generously share with me. By speaking with them and meeting many others, I decided to try and create a group in hopes to establish a zone for Veterans and Active Duty Military Members. The intention is so that they can find a space to showcase original artworks in any form or medium. It is continually adding and building a community where Warrior Artists can exhibit, sell, enter contests and network with other Artists, Art Aficionados, and Professionals in the field. It is open to new artist who are learning their process as well as those who are accomplished artists and want to Mentor fellow brothers and sisters. It’s name is the Warrior Art Group.
Q: How has working with the JME helped and/or changed your own process?
JME has offered me, as well as many other Veteran artists another outstanding outlet to display our work, share our thoughts, and begin a conversation. My process hasn’t changed. I create works that speak about issues that not only affect soldiers, but our society as a whole. My ideas haven’t changed much since last year as I am pushing forward with the Grenade Series.