The Grady Myers drawing "Still Life with CIB" is on display in Surrealism and War, which opens this Memorial Day at the National Veterans Art Museum. The work is among others from the NVAM's permanent collection that are included in the six-month exhibit and series of special events.
War is almost by definition a surreal enterprise. That's certainly the impression I got when listening to Grady tell the stories that we captured in his memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War."
It's interesting that Grady chose the Combat Infantry Badge as the subject of this, the most abstract of his war-related works. Among his military decorations, he was most proud of the CIB. It meant he hadn't just served in the Army. He'd seen battle -- and, as this piece suggests, paid a price for that experience. This disheveled soldier does not fit his clothes and seems disjointed, harried. He has seen a lot. Are his eyes closed against memories of violence and fear?
Surrealism, write the exhibit curators, is "an attempt to revolt against the inherent contradictions of a society ruled by rational thought while dominated by war and oppression. Surrealism seeks expression of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason and free of aesthetic and moral preoccupation. It is this same absence of control exercised by reason that many combat veterans seek to explore and express after their experiences in war."
"Still Life with CIB" is one of four pieces that Grady created in the 1990s for a traveling exhibit of work by Vietnam veterans. That project evolved into the Chicago museum, which is the repository of Grady's original Vietnam-related artwork.
That art is reproduced in "Boocoo Dinky Dow." But the small-format book doesn't do justice to the original poster-sized works. It's wonderful to know they are occasionally brought out for public viewing.
Julie Titone is co-author of the Grady Myers memoir "Boocoo Dinky Dow: My short, crazy Vietnam War." Grady was an M-60 machine gunner in The U.S. Army's Company C’s 2nd Platoon, 1st Battalion, 8th Regiment, 4th Infantry Division in late 1968 and early 1969. His Charlie Company comrades knew him as Hoss. Thoughts, comments? Send Julie an email.