Tag Archives: David Giffey

Horror of war captured in art – Display in Gallery 211 showscases work of soldier turned activist

Originally posted on TheClairion

Ana Bon, Art Director

Allie Christensen/Clarion “Long Shadow” by David Giffey is on dispay through Sept. 30. Giffey will be at the artist’s reception on Sept. 22 from noon to 2 p.m.

Paintings about remembrances of the Vietnam War currently hang on the walls of Gallery 211 at Madison College’s downtown campus.

David Giffey, peace activist and war veteran, has found his “Long Shadow” series of paintings to be a peaceful way of confronting something terrible.

“I feel these are anti-war paintings,” said Giffey, sitting in the center of his gallery exhibition. “If someone disagrees with me, that’s their right, they don’t have to look.”

You can find elements of Giffey’s original black and white photographs in each of his paintings.

Next to each painting, you can read an expert from the personal journal that Giffey kept during combat.

“It’s a very private kind of journal but I share parts of it sometimes, ” he said. The chosen entries best describe Giffey’s memories and emotions regarding the paintings.

“Long Shadow” is a series of paintings that is different from Giffey’s preceding artwork. In contrast to his prior work, these paintings were done more quickly, and the coloration much redder, expressing the violence and his emotional outlook as an artist. He has decorated churches and painted murals, but these paintings are a more personal expression.

“I can’t imagine and I’ve never heard of a visual artist who tried to illustrate anything about the violence of war in any way other than just shocking violence imagery, and that is really what war is about, there is nothing romantic or peaceful about it,” he said.

“I hope that whoever really takes the time to examine, to look at the photographs, to read the labels, will realized that militarism and the traditions of militarism, really, really need to be examined,” said Giffey. Giffey’s paintings are not only an artistic expression, they are also a form of self-awareness.

“While I was in Vietnam in the war, I became very convinced that it was a terrible mistake,” said Giffey. “That we, American soldiers, should not have been there. It was not our concern.”

Giffey grew up on a very small dairy farm in Fond du Lac county in Wisconsin. He attended UW-Oshkosh but was really interested in writing and got a job with a newspaper. At that time, the ‘60s, if you weren’t in college, you were eligible to be drafted in the military. Giffey leaned towards writing over college and was drafted in 1964.

“Even though I had been politically active, I really hadn’t been aware of the south east Asia and Vietnam as a potential place where there would be a war. However, about a year later, I found myself on a ship going to Vietnam,” said Giffey.

When he was drafted for Vietnam, he was first trained as an artillery gunner, then reassigned to become the assistant editor of for the first infantry division. It was his duty to go into combat missions along with other soldiers to take photographs.

As soon as Giffey came back from war in 1966, he joined the peace movement

“I go to high schools and try to let young people know that there are alternatives to the military,” he said. “After the war in Vietnam, it was clear to me that I had to try to work for peace and justice whenever possible. It’s a helpful kind of work for me, just like visual art and writing, because it is non-violent.”

“My time in the Army and the war never leaves my mind. It was a difficult time and I will always try to overcome my participation in the military by following a peaceful path.”


Artist reception will be held Sept.22 at the Downtown Campus, with refreshments provided from noon to 2 p.m.

To see more of Giffey’s artwork you can visit davidgiffey.com.

Art Exhibit- Long Shadow: Painted Remembrances of Vietnam

Vietnam war veteran and artist David Giffey’s series of paintings – Long Shadow: Painted Remembrances of Vietnam – will be exhibited August 15 – September 30, 2016, at Gallery 211, located at 211 North Carroll Street, in the downtown Madison College (MATC) campus building.  The exhibition will open to the public during regular gallery hours which are Mon-Thurs: 11am-5pm, Friday: 10am-2pm. An artist’s talk will be scheduled in September at a date to be announced.

Artist and journalist David Giffey, a Wisconsin native and active member of Veterans for Peace Chapter 25, was drafted and worked as a combat journalist in the 1st Infantry Division in the American War in Viet Nam during 1965 and 1966. Giffey’s murals are permanently installed in schools, community centers, public buildings, and Greek Orthodox Churches in the Upper Midwest and in Greece. He has completed hundreds of easel paintings by commission, and designed the earthen effigy mound “Dove of Peace” which was built at the Highground Veterans Memorial Park, Neillsville, Wisconsin.

Giffey’s series of large paintings – Long Shadows – has been exhibited widely including at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum. The Long Shadows paintings are based on photos taken during the war in Vietnam. The Long Shadows series includes six canvases painted from 1991 through 2013. His murals and other paintings are permanently installed in many public buildings including churches, schools, and community centers.

Giffey’s written publications include “Long Shadows: Veterans’ Paths to Peace” (Atwood Publishing), “Struggle for Justice: The Migrant Farm Worker Labor Movement in Wisconsin,” and “The People’s Stories of South Madison.” He is an award-winning journalist and editor.  Click here to view the exhibit flier.

Artist’s Statement

When another generation of young Americans was sent to invade a distant nation at the start of the Gulf War in 1991, I was filled with anger and sadness and began working on the Long Shadow paintings. Photographs I took during the war as a combat journalist with the Army 1 st Infantry Division in Viet Nam inspired images for the canvases.

I made sketches and rough compositional layouts. The large format is comfortable for me since I’ve worked as a muralist for many years. The loosely hanging canvases remind me of the flimsy insecure tents we sometimes used.

I was determined to experiment artistically with my dismal, frightening, and emotional memories of war. But I didn’t anticipate the impressions of bloody explosions, violence, and loneliness that the work brought forth in my mind.

As a war veteran, I’m grateful that I have been able to work as an artist. Art is a peaceful outlet for the inner residue of war. Along with art, the love and support of family and friends, activism for peace and justice, a spiritual path, and writing have come together to make life precious beyond words.

By many standards my experiences in war were trivial. Yet not a single day has passed in 50 years when I am not aware of some aspect, a detail, of the war in Viet Nam. War casts a shadow of trauma. Veterans return home with that shadow permanently attached to their psyches, and pass it along to their families, friends, and communities. The antidote to the contagion of war is peace. But the peaceful cure is repeatedly preempted when young people are sent to another war, which will end only with the death of its final survivor.

David Giffey

Arena, Wisconsin

2016

Chapter 25 counter-recruiting, essay contest in Six Rural Southwestern Wisconsin High Schools

VFP Counter-Recruiting display at Baraboo High School.  Photo by David Giffey.

VFP Counter-Recruiting display at Baraboo High School. Photo by David Giffey.

In early 2016, Veterans for Peace Chapter 25 members spent lunch hours counter-

recruiting in six high schools in rural Southwestern Wisconsin. This photo shows

the visual display set up at Baraboo High School in March. Also included in the

counter recruitment and essay contest sponsored by Chapter 25 are high schools:

River Valley in Spring Green, Riverdale in Muscoda, Dodgeville, Boscobel, and

Richland Center. Students receive information regarding alternatives to the military

and details about the on-going essay contest. In 2015, a total of 39 seniors at the six

rural high schools wrote essays on the topic “Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer.”

The winning essay writer in each school received a $500 scholarship from Chapter

25. The counter-recruiting and scholarship essay program in Southwestern

Wisconsin is coordinated by Chapter 25 founding member David Giffey. Member

Randy Converse assisted with counter recruiting in the rural high schools. The

scholarships will be presented to the winning students at award night ceremonies at

each of the schools before the end of the 2016 school year. For more information

about the rural high school scholarship program, email David Giffey:

barnowl1941 (at) gmail (dot) com

Chapter 25 works for peace and justice with Peace Rally and Memorial Mile

Featured speakers at the May 25 peace rally in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by  Veterans for Peace Chapter 25, are pictured in this photo montage by photographer  Paul McMahon, a member of Veterans for Peace. Clockwise from lower left: David  Newby, president emeritus of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO; Father David Couper,  former Madison police chief and ordained Episcopalian priest; social justice  advocate Everett Mitchell, pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church; and Will  Williams, Vietnam War veteran, activist, and peace movement spokesman. Rev.  Mitchell is pictured wearing a stole of Kente cloth, a traditional fabric used for West  African garments and worn at times of great importance.  (Photos by Paul McMahon)

Featured speakers at the May 25 peace rally in Madison, Wisconsin, sponsored by Veterans for Peace Chapter 25, are pictured in this photo montage by photographer Paul McMahon, a member of Veterans for Peace. Clockwise from lower left: David Newby, president emeritus of Wisconsin State AFL-CIO; Father David Couper, former Madison police chief and ordained Episcopalian priest; social justice advocate Everett Mitchell, pastor of Christ the Solid Rock Baptist Church; and Will Williams, Vietnam War veteran, activist, and peace movement spokesman. Rev. Mitchell is pictured wearing a stole of Kente cloth, a traditional fabric used for West African garments and worn at times of great importance. – (Photos by Paul McMahon)

By David Giffey

The historic Gates of Heaven building resounded with applause and affirmation during the annual peace rally sponsored May 25, Memorial Day, in Madison, by Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace.

Four featured speakers delivered important and thoughtfully prepared comments, high school student scholarship winners were honored, and names of war casualties were read to live bagpipe music as the audience of 100 people received red carnations to be placed at the Lincoln Brigade monument at James Madison Park. The Gates of Heaven building, a former Jewish Synagogue, was moved to its present site at the park and served as a home for the peace rally.

A somber display – The Memorial Mile – also was erected by Chapter 25 members on May 23, and was scheduled to remain in place along Atwood Avenue until May 30. The Memorial Mile consists of 6,675 symbolic grave markers, which stretch a saddening and impressive distance along the street to be viewed by thousands of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians.

The peace rally began with a stirring set performed by the band Old Cool.

Veterans for Peace member David Couper, an ex-Marine, and former Madison police chief and advocate of community policing, told the crowd: “Excessive militarism is dangerous in a free society…we have seen it manifested in our nation’s police. As soldiers, we fought an enemy, but police in a society such as ours must be our guardians, especially of those among us who are most vulnerable…” After Couper retired from his peace keeping work he was ordained a priest in the Episcopalian Church. His invocation was included in his thoughtful comments.

Activist and labor leader David Newby, president emeritus of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, described the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal as being devised in secret to benefit powerful corporations. “Memorial Day is such an important day,” Newby said, “for remembering those killed in this nation’s wars…It’s an important day for remembering too that the reasons for our being in these wars are so often not what we are told. So often it has been not the American people who we went to war to protect, but rather powerful corporations whose interests and profits were considered more important than the lives of the women and men sent to war.”

Everett Mitchell, a social justice advocate, attorney, activist, scholar and pastor at the Solid Rock Baptist Church, devoted some of his comments to lessons taught about war and peace by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. As injustice and police violence reach into the lives of African Americans in Madison and communities across the U.S., Rev. Mitchell repeated a message for peace and justice activists: “Until there is justice, we can’t stop.”

Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is heir to anti-war history.  Beginning in 1967, this hand-sewn flag made in Madison, Wisconsin, was used by Madison Veterans for Peace in Vietnam at numerous public demonstrations and protests against the war. Chuck Goranson, a Vietnam veteran, was a grassroots organizer of the group. “Vietnam” was dropped from the group’s name in 1970, when the war was expanded into Cambodia and Laos. Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is a 21st century renewal of the earlier veterans for peace organization. This photo, by Chapter 25 member Phillip Fransen, was taken during the peace rally May 25, 2015, at the Gates of Heaven in James Madison Park. The aging flag serves as a reminder that veterans have long been active in the peace movement.  (Photo by Phillip Fransen)

Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is heir to anti-war history. Beginning in 1967, this hand-sewn flag made in Madison, Wisconsin, was used by Madison Veterans for Peace in Vietnam at numerous public demonstrations and protests against the war. Chuck Goranson, a Vietnam veteran, was a grassroots organizer of the group. “Vietnam” was dropped from the group’s name in 1970, when the war was expanded into Cambodia and Laos. Clarence Kailin Chapter 25 Veterans for Peace is a 21st century renewal of the earlier veterans for peace organization. This photo, by Chapter 25 member Phillip Fransen, was taken during the peace rally May 25, 2015, at the Gates of Heaven in James Madison Park. The aging flag serves as a reminder that veterans have long been active in the peace movement. (Photo by Phillip Fransen)

Two of seven 2015 high school scholarship winners, Lyric Simonson and Jose Hernandez, read excerpts from their prizewinning essays titled: “Why I Believe War Is Not the Answer.” This year, Chapter 25 provided a total of $4,200 in scholarships to seven high school graduates. A record 39 students from seven high schools in Central and Southwestern Wisconsin wrote essays for the contest.

Closing comments by Chapter 25 member and Vietnam War veteran Will Williams pointed out the injustices of war that he realized after serving in war. Williams emphasized the importance of educating and supporting young people in order to overcome traditions of militarism and violence.

The peace rally ended with an invitation from the family of Clarence Kailin, namesake of Chapter 25 and a veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade from Madison, to join in scattering some of Clarence’s ashes near the monument at the park. Norman Stockwell, of WORT-FM, offered the invitation on behalf of Clarence’s family, some of whom attended the peace rally.

Names of Wisconsin residents killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those of civilian casualties were read.

See more photos of the event here.  Courtesy of Tom Glassel.

Montage of Chapter 25 and Chapter 970 members marching in Monona Memorial Day Parade. (Youtube Link)