Hunt Library presents WWI military exhibit
FALLS VILLAGE — Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the David M. Hunt Library, 63 Main St., will present the exhibit, “By Sea By Air By Land: Military Art and Artifacts 100 Years after the Great War,” through November.
Featuring maritime, aviation and figurative artwork in painting, drawing, and photography by artists including Robert Andrew Parker, Pamela Berkeley, Robert Cronin, David Fertig and Lazlo Gyorsok, the exhibit includes items from the Falls Village-Canaan Historical Society and from private collections.
Not limited to the WWI era, the exhibit encompasses military culture, history and iconography from many countries and over several centuries, from Berkeley’s portrait of the mythic knight Parsifal to an installation of Parker’s wooden airplane models and a U.S. Cavalry uniform that saw service in the “Punitive Expedition” to capture Poncho Villa during the Mexican Revolution and in three major campaigns in WWI France. Also featured is a maritime painting by Norman Wilkinson, the British artist who invented the technique of dazzle camouflage, which helped improve the safety of ships against attack in WWI.
Painter Fertig is known for his focus on the age of Napoleon and Admiral Nelson through the lens of the New York School, while Gyorsok’s photography captures historical re-enactors’ enthusiasm for the American Revolution and the Civil War. Ken Musselman’s painting, “Mighty Mo,” depicts sailors readying a 16-inch gun on the USS Missouri, while Cronin shows the tenderness of a lonely couple on the deck of the RMS Lusitania. Paintings by Geoffrey Parker and Mary Jeys show ships in states of distress, and Emily Rutgers Fuller provides a landscape of a watch tower used to spot submarines off the coast of Maine during World War II. A woven rug of a soldier by Hendon will also be in the exhibit, along with works by other artists including Sergei Fedorjaczenko, Lillian Lovitt, and Martijn Spijkers.
Garth Kobal, the curator of the exhibit and one of its artists, was inspired to assemble “By Sea By Air By Land” through family research into Elzie Dillard Rigdon’s WWI service in the famous “All-American” 82nd Division of the 328th Infantry. Rigdon, then 24, of Alma, Ga., and the father of Kobal’s husband, was wounded by shrapnel and gas on Oct. 8, 1918, during the decisive Meuse-Argonne campaign in France, which helped bring the Great War to its conclusion. His injuries, earning him a Purple Heart, took place on the same day and about 2 miles from where Sgt. Alvin York, also in the 82nd Division, famously captured 132 German soldiers.
A family member located Rigdon’s embarkation papers, which led to the discovery of a photograph of the Walmer Castle, a dazzling camouflage-painted British mail ship that transported the American Expeditionary Forces from Hoboken, N.J., to Liverpool. It was this image, Kobal said, “that brought E.D. and the whole conflict to life for me. My husband’s dad — a young green farmer who I never met — sailed to WWI in a painting, so-to-speak, experienced incredible hardship and injury, and was a participant in this brutal and devastating world-changing event. I immediately sent the photo of the Walmer Castle to Robert Andrew Parker in Cornwalland he jumped on it, painting a pair of watercolors that are the starting point of this exhibit. Parker was integral to making the exhibit what it is, as many of the artifacts featured in the exhibit are from his private collection. Add to that his wooden airplane models, paintings and etchings and you have an exhibit largely built around Parker’s work, one of our greatest living artists with a truly historical and 20th century perspective.”
A watercolor by Robert Andrew Parker titled “Walmer Castle 2017.”