The Vietnam War still divides. Tony Hilliard was there and he still remembers it all too well.
“Talks about Vietnam tend to polarize people,” said Hilliard, a retired U.S. Marine who served in Da Nang, a U.S. Air Base in South Vietnam where his job was to find mines.
Recently, Hilliard and his wife, Peg, surveyed visions of Vietnam and its aftermath when they attended a new exhibit at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art.
The exhibit, “Burden of Proof: National Identity and the Legacy of War,” was inspired by a campus-wide reading of Tim O’Brien’s book, “The Things They Carried,” a fictionalized account of his service in Vietnam, and it is the first OUMA show curated by its new director, Elizabeth Peterson.
The show contains 37 pieces, including five photographs by Dinh Q. Lê, North Vietnamese propaganda posters from the Shelley and Donald Rubin private collection, and six sculptures by Keisha Luce documented by Kirk Torregrossa. The show runs through Dec. 9.
The exhibit’s photographic images made the criteria for Oglethorpe to participate in the upcoming 2012 Atlanta Celebrates Photography Festival—an annual event held every October in different locales around metro Atlanta to promote the art of photography. This is a first for Oglethorpe.
“The whole exhibit is thought-provoking,” patron April Levalois said as she toured the show. “It looks like documentary art buffered with texture to soften the tragic images of the Vietnam War.”
One of Lê’s color-saturated photographs, “Paratroopers,” caught Levalois’s attention. It depicts a photo of Catherine Deneuve in the film “Indochine.” “This is almost like art imitating life through film,” Levalois said.
Jay Lutz, a French language professor at Oglethorpe, immediately recognized the film since he has taught many film courses at the Brookhaven university, especially those with a French flair. “‘Indochine’ is a nostalgic look at the disappearance of Indochina as a French colony,” Lutz said.
Vietnam was once part of the Indochina French colony. Its freedom from the French colonization led to the division of Vietnam between north and south in the 1950s.
Hilliard said his favorite parts of the exhibit were Sheila Pree Bright’s “Young Americans” series depicting American citizens holding American flags and sharing their views about the United States. “I thought their narratives had a balanced, objective approach,” he said.