“United by Hand” Pays Tribute to U.S. Military Veterans, Raises Critical Awareness

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In an upcoming exhibition at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, three artist-veterans, working in fiber, wood, and clay, use their craft practices to give veterans a voice and promote peace.

Alicia Dietz, “Fallen Soldiers,” 2015. Basswood, sapele, cypress, poplar, kevlar, fabric, ink. 24 x 26 x 62 inches. Photo by Jeremy Zietz.

When presented together, this powerful collection of works and programming shows that each voice in the community has the power to help heal from past events and shape the future.

In February, 2017, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents “United by Hand: Work and Service by Drew Cameron, Alicia Dietz, and Ehren Tool,” a program-driven exhibition led by three artist-veterans working in fiber, wood, and clay. Drew Cameron, Alicia Dietz, and Ehren Tool use craft as part of their own healing, and, through their artistic practices, continue to serve their country by promoting peace and giving a voice to veterans. Through both the works on view in the galleries and a series of craft-based programs, “United by Hand” pays tribute to U.S. veterans and aims to create neutral ground, raising critical awareness about the history and current state of war culture in the United States.

Second-generation papermaker Drew Cameron draws on a history of making paper from clothing that dates back to the middle 8th century. Cameron served in the U.S. Army, right after high school, from 2000 to 2006. He was deeply affected by the time that he spent in Iraq in 2003 as a Field Artillery Soldier and found catharsis through papermaking. In 2007, Cameron cut up his uniform, reconstituting it into paper for “You Are Not My Enemy.” In this same year, he co-founded “Combat Paper” with fellow artist and activist, Drew Matott. The two began traveling the country, collecting uniforms and other clothing, and transforming them into paper sheets, which he calls “lineage fiber.” Celebrating the collaborative work of veterans and civilians, this interactive project is ongoing and promotes a forum for individuals to share their perspectives on war with those who have not experienced it firsthand.

Stationed around the world, Alicia Dietz served in the U.S. Army for 10 years as an officer and Blackhawk Maintenance Test Pilot in the Iraq War. During her military career, she had the opportunity to meet a variety of people and felt compelled to share their stories. With a background in journalism, Dietz views her woodworking and furniture design practice as a conduit for these individuals. Organized by blood type, the handmade wooden frames in her “Collective Cadence” (2016) installation chronicle the stories of 117 active-duty soldiers, veterans, and their spouses, all etched in glass and printed on aluminum. While the installation is on view at HCCC, Dietz will continue to collect stories as part of her ongoing “Collective Cadence” archive.

As a Marine who served in the 1991 Gulf War, ceramic artist Ehren Tool is unsettled by memories of his service and recognizes how violence has changed him, leaving him uncertain about how to talk about his experience during active duty. He has been struck by children’s toys that replicate the gas masks, uniforms, and warfare that he recognizes as products of the Gulf War. Tool uses his potter’s wheel to make cups that expose the large disparity between fiction and reality. For him, each cup represents a human life. He uses the utilitarian object’s familiar form to engage the cupbearer in a dialogue with the graphic photographs and press-molded war paraphernalia of its surface. So far, Tool has given away more than 18,000 of these cups, and, for this exhibition, he will create a new series to be distributed at HCCC on Memorial Day weekend.

Tool has said, “Peace is the only adequate war memorial.” All three artist-veterans devote their craft practices to promoting this message and to calling the community to action. When presented together, this powerful collection of works and programming shows that each voice in the community has the power to help heal from past events and shape the future.

“United by Hand: Work and Service by Drew Cameron, Alicia Dietz, and Ehren Tool” was curated by HCCC Curator, Kathryn Hall.

Exhibition Dates: February 3 – May 28, 2017
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
4848 Main Street, Houston, Texas 77002

Opening Reception: Friday, February 3, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
The evening will also feature open studios by HCCC’s current resident artists.

Exhibition Web Page
See exhibition images and a full list of programs here.
https://www.crafthouston.org/exhibition/unitedbyhand/

Hours & Admission
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, and Sunday, 12 – 5 PM. Summer Hours: Closed Sundays, July 4th – Labor Day. Holidays: Closed Easter, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is free.

About Houston Center for Contemporary Craft
Houston Center for Contemporary Craft is a nonprofit visual arts center dedicated to advancing education about the process, product and history of craft. HCCC provides exhibition, retail and studio spaces to support the work of local and national artists and serves as a resource for artists, educators and the community at large.

Located in the Houston Museum District, HCCC is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM – 5 PM, and Sunday, 12 – 5 PM. Summer Hours: Closed Sundays, July 4th – Labor Day. Holidays: Closed Easter, July 4th, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Free parking is available directly behind the facility, off Rosedale and Travis Street. HCCC is three blocks south of Wheeler Ave. MetroRail station on Main Street.

HCCC is funded in part by grants from The Brown Foundation; Houston Endowment, Inc.; the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance; Texas Commission on the Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; the Kinder Foundation; the Morgan Foundation; Windgate Charitable Foundation; and the Wortham Foundation. HCCC is a member of the Houston Museum District and the Midtown Arts District.

For more information, call 713-529-4848 or visit http://www.crafthouston.org. Find HCCC on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @CraftHouston.

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Mary Headrick
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