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.
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.