Veterans Liberate the Past by Making Paper

The artwork of the Combat Paper art Exhibit at the Stamp Gallery at the University of Maryland. Photos by Dylan Moroses.

Dylan Moroses
Reporter

Veterans have finally found a way to liberate themselves from their past service with an unorthodox way — stripping and tearing their old uniforms and making them into paper.

Tuesday, Nov. 6 marked the opening reception of the Combat Paper exhibit, curated by James Hughes at The Stamp Gallery on the University of Maryland campus, which featured paper mâché artwork among other pieces created from veterans’ military uniforms.

Each piece in the gallery marked a veteran’s personal and emotional story, displayed and expressed through a piece of their past.

“The paper is made from the fatigues, and in this particular exhibition, its veterans making the artwork as well,” said Jackie Milad, the program coordinator for the gallery. “So a lot of it is very personal and specific to their experiences.”

Veterans take their old military fatigues, or uniforms, and break them down into a type of paper. The Combat Paper website maps out the process the fatigues go through to create art:

Through papermaking workshops veterans use their uniforms worn in combat to create cathartic works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Veterans use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniform as art and begin to embrace their experiences in the military.

Veterans who attended the opening reception came to the exhibit to experience the artwork and relate them to their own experiences and memories.

“It’s great. Just to think of how it was all created makes it tough being in here,” said Brad Rothnie, a veteran medic of the U.S. Navy. “Seeing these pieces of art kind of makes me reflect on my own service.”

Faculty from the University of Maryland in Baltimore also attended the exhibit to bring ideas to their own campus. “We’re here to find out how we can meet the needs of our veterans so we’re here to meet with some of the associates here for veteran affairs here in College Park,” said Courtney Jones, the director of Interprofessional Student Learning & Service Initiatives at the Baltimore campus.

Jones and Rothnie enjoyed the exhibit and thought it was an excellent way to pay homage to the experiences and memories of veterans who serve the United States.

“We’ve never done anything like this, but its very interesting thinking about the concept in general — that these were once uniforms and are now being transformed into something else,” Jones said. “This is definitely something we would bring to campus.”

The exhibit will be on display at The Stamp gallery until Dec. 15. Find out more on the gallery’s blog.

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