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.
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.