The first season of Eighty One Echo features interviews with veteran-artists Yvette M. Pino, Eric J. Garcia, Maurice Emerson Decaul, Drew Cameron, and Amber Hoy. From comic books to painting "screaming eagles" on helipads in Iraq, from multimedia theater to making paper from military uniforms, this eclectic group of veterans share stories about the military, creating art, who they were before serving, and how politics influence their work. Our interviewers for season one are Chelsea Wills and Thomas Seely.
In July of 2017, Combat Paper-makers from around the U.S. descended on Revival Book Arts and Paper Studio in Trumansburg, NY, for a week of papermaking, artistic collaboration, conversation, and celebration. Collecting interviews reflecting on 10 years of papermaking from military uniforms, friendship and community, Kevin Basl asked attendees to share insights and favorite stories about Combat Paper. This episode of Eighty One Echo weaves those interviews together, featuring Drew Cameron, Lovella Calica, Eli Wright, David Keefe, Leonard Shelton, Nathan Lewis, Robert Possehl and more.
How did Amber Hoy create a “poetic place” for herself during eight years serving in the Army Reserves? Influenced by photo-text artists like Martha Rosler, Amber uses photography and other mediums to seek moments where the past and present merge, citing that much of her work is “a warning to a younger self.” Amber, initially trained to be an Army cook, deployed to Iraq as an ammunition specialist in 2006. Navigating the overtly-masculine world of the military and, later, veterans’ culture, her work also explores how femininity finds expression in a male-dominated environment. Amber, who holds an MFA in photography and integrated media, talks about her thesis show, Entrenched, which includes stories paired with diptychs composed from snapshots she took in Iraq.
Poet and playwright Maurice Decaul didn’t start writing until he enrolled at New York University, several years after serving in Iraq with the U.S. Marines. There he participated in the NYU Veterans Writing Workshop with fellow veterans Phil Klay, Matt Gallagher, Roy Scranton and others. Maurice went on to complete an MFA in poetry (he reads from his work in this episode) and currently studies playwriting at Brown University. He shares some of the lessons he learned from mentor Yusef Komunyakaa, including what it means to be a “veteran writer.” He also talks about the complications of loving the Marine Corps while being against the Iraq War—a conflict many of today’s veterans experience.
Following service in the U.S. Army, Drew Cameron went to college in Vermont, on the G.I. Bill. There, he rediscovered the craft of hand papermaking (his father is a papermaker), while learning about the history of anti-war resistance, especially those movements led by veterans and service members. In the third episode of Eighty One Echo, recorded at Shotwell Paper Mill in San Francisco in 2016, Drew talks about making Combat Paper, the problem of American militarism and people who have inspired his work. What happens in a Combat Paper workshop? How does this craft fit into the history of hand papermaking, from the 8th century C.E. in what is today Iraq, to the hundreds of U.S. service members and veterans now making paper from their uniforms? What is creativity as an act of survival? You’ll hear Drew respond to these questions and more.
As a teenager, Eric J. Garcia took a trip to Mexico City and experienced a political and artistic awakening. He encountered the work of the Mexican Muralists, Los Tres Grandes. Years later, Eric would get stop-lossed by the U.S. Air Force, leading him to post cartoons critical of military policy for fellow airmen and his command to see. In episode two of Eighty One Echo, hear Eric tell these stories, while also sharing his thoughts on U.S. imperialism, Chicano studies and the term “veteran artist.” He also describes his original political cartoon series, El Machete Illustrated, and walks us through his recent sculptural installation at the National Veterans Art Museum, Operation Mom’s Couch.
How did Yvette M. Pino go from working in professional theater to painting unit mascots in Iraq for General Petraeus? In the premier episode of Eighty One Echo, hear Yvette talk about why she joined the army, making political artwork, and the harmful effects of her uncle’s silence about his experience in the Vietnam War. Other highlights include stories from the Veteran Print Project, how food helped her connect with Iraqi workers and why she sees printmaking as a metaphor for the military.
Eighty One Echo is a podcast series featuring interviews with veteran artists. Each episode features an in-depth discussion of the artist's cultural background, military experience and artistic craft. Follow this growing community, and please share Eighty One Echo with your friends.
Eighty One Echo is produced by Aaron Hughes and Kevin Basl.
Chelsea Wills is an artist and food researcher. Her work exists at the nexus of place, change, and stories. This takes her to faraway places, like Mayan kitchens, crumbling haciendas, and megacity markets of Mexico, and also close to home, from the shoreline of Northern California and the last tenacious farms in the Silicon Valley to her own home garden. She explores places in flux and works closely with people inhabiting them. Her studio practice is interdisciplinary and conceptually based, choosing the right mediums and tools for each project. These can include community organizing and teaching, ethnographic research, agricultural practices, and archiving, as well as more traditional media such as photography, painting, and dyeing. She often collaborates with scientists, farmers, and cooks in her work. She draws heavily on her long-term interests in food, plants, and everyday things. Her curiosity often brings her to the margins of familiar things, the places in-between traditional and modern, wild and tame, science and art.
She co-produces the podcast Delicious Revolution. She holds a Master’s degree from UC Berkeley in Arts Education and has shown her work nationally and internationally. Currently she is an Equity Fellow at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
Thomas Seely is an audio producer and photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. Most recently he was the producer and host of the podcast Art Uncovered for the arts and culture website BTR Today. The podcast featured interviews with visual artists, filmmakers, curators, and writers.
Aaron Hughes is an artist, activist, organizer, teacher, and Iraq War veteran based in Chicago. His multidimensional creative practice operates in a diversity of spaces and media as he seeks out connections, poetics, and moments of beauty in order to construct narratives and meaning out of personal and collective traumas. He uses these narratives in the development of projects that expose and deconstruct systems of oppression and dehumanization. Hughes works collaboratively with a range of artists, veterans, activists, and art organizations and projects including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, National Veterans Art Museum, Warrior Writers, Dirty Canteen, Prison & Neighborhood Arts Project, and the emerging Veteran Art Movement.
Kevin Basl is a writer, musician and activist living near Ithaca, NY. He served in the Army as a mobile radar operator from 2003 to 2008, twice deploying to Iraq. Using a variety of media to tell stories, his work focuses on the rural working class, discovering beauty in the unknown, military absurdity and futility, and learning from different cultures. He is a papermaking and printmaking instructor for Combat Paper NJ and Frontline Arts, and a writing facilitator for Warrior Writers. He earned an MFA in fiction from Temple University, where he has taught writing, and he also holds degrees in literature and philosophy. He is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace. When Kevin is not on the road teaching and performing, he lives in a solar-powered tiny house.
The production of season one of Eighty One Echo was made possible through a generous grant from the Blue Mountain Center, along with the financial support of producer Aaron Hughes.
Special thanks also to Thomas Seely and Chelsea Wills, our interviewers, for their patience and guidance, their audio editing expertise, and the hours they devoted to helping get our project off the ground. Please check out their other podcasts: Chelsea is co-producer of Delicious Revolution, and Thomas hosts Art Uncovered.