War Veterans Transform Uniforms Into Art

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Breaking Rank, by Drew Cameron and Drew Matott, 2007

NEWARK—The Newark Public Library is featuring artwork created by veterans in the exhibition, “The Combat Paper Project: Healing through Art.” The exhibition highlights art on paper made from military uniforms, and may be viewed from April 1 through June 26 in the third floor gallery of the Main Library, 5 Washington Street, Newark.

A reception and panel discussion with Drew Cameron and Drew Matott, the co-founders of Combat Paper will take place at the Main Library on April 22, from 6 to 8 p.m. In addition, Cameron, Matott, and other artists featured in the exhibition will present tours of the exhibition and demonstrate the process of transforming uniforms into paper on April 22 from noon to 4 p.m., and April 23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All programs are free and open to the public.

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The Combat Paper Project is a grass-roots initiative founded in 2008 to introduce veterans to the process of papermaking as a form of cathartic art therapy. In residencies at the Green Door Studio in Burlington, Vt. where Combat Paper is based, and roving workshops across North America and the U.K., veterans repurpose and transform uniforms they wore in combat into handmade paper: uniforms are cut, cooked, beaten into pulp by a Hollander beater, and pounded into sheets of paper, onto which text or images may be added through stencils, screen-printing, and pulp painting.

The project provides veterans with a supportive community and a creative process through which to reconcile and share their personal experiences as warriors, and ease the transition back to civilian life.

The idea for Combat Paper sprang from Cameron and Matott’s shared interests in papermaking and book art, and Cameron’s desire to help fellow veterans. Cameron served six years in the Army and Army National Guard from 2000 to 2006, and was a Field Artillery Soldier in Iraq from April to December 2003. He envisioned Combat Paper as a means through which to bring veterans together, and help them overcome the same feelings of alienation, detachment, and despair that he felt by the end of his service.

Since 2007, more than 100 veterans of different wars and all branches of service have participated in Combat Paper workshops, or residencies at the Green Door Studio. The project has generated an extensive body of work, reflecting a wide range of personal experiences, subjects, and mediums. In addition to artwork, paper from the project has been used for books, personal journals and broadsides.

“The Newark Public Library is proud to be hosting this unique and thought- provoking exhibit,” said Library Director Wilma Grey. “The Combat Paper Project has served as a meaningful outlet for veterans to express themselves about their experiences.”

Although work created through the project has been shown widely throughout the United States and Europe, Newark marks the first full-scale Combat Paper exhibition in the tri-state area.

The Combat Paper Project: Healing Through Art is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.npl.org.


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