War and conflict between groups of people have gone on since the beginning of time, before recorded history. According to Joshua Mark, the first war in recorded history took place in Mesopotamia in 2700 BCE between Sumer and Elam, however, the earliest pictographs of armies at war come from the kingdom of Kish, dated to about 2500 BCE (2013). The causes of war differ depending on what war is being discussed, but consequences of war are typically always the same. In the United States we have seen from wars such as the American Revolutionary War, the war of 1812, the Northwest Indian War, and both World Wars that with war comes destruction, hardship, displacement, and loss of life.
Win or lose, those involved in a war are always left with the impact of their decisions and the effect they’ve had on the innocent bystanders. Due to this, I would like to propose an exhibit in the museum that reflects on the unspeakable events that come about during war which will allow viewers to become educated on the true devastation of war and how it affects the human condition.
The first work of art I would include would be John Gast’s 1872 painting American Progress.. Westward expansion was seen as a great idea during the 19th century in America and this is essentially the message conveyed in Gast’s painting. According to Jake Colberg, it portrays Western expansion by Americans as glorious and righteous thing. In reality, however, expansion may not have been as just as the painting makes it seem (2012). The painting illustrates an American landscape, with the right half representing eastern America, and the left half representing Western America. The right half representing the eastern land that has already been conquered by Americans is painted brightly. On the other hand, the left half, where the Native Americans are, is dark with storm clouds. There is also the figure of an angelic woman in the middle of the painting who is moving westwards with the Americans, illuminating their path. Anyone who looks at this painting today will immediately feel sympathy for the Native Americans who are depicted fleeing their own land. Some of the American farmers in the painting are armed and this explains why the Native Americans look frightened. This painting illustrates the time period of the Manifest Destiny and the Trails of Tears, and it allows viewers to see the horrors of the forced removal of Native Americans and the consequences of land war. Moreover, the second work of art I would include is Pablo Picasso’s 1937 painting titled Guernica. Guernica is a town in the autonomous community of the Basque Country of Spain, which was considered by the Nationalist forces in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) to be center of Basque culture and the base of the Republican resistance. Francisco Franco, the leader of the Nationalist Forces and the dictator of Spain after the Nationalist victory in 1939, allowed Germany to bomb the town of Guernica with their new weaponry and military tactics. The goal was to intimidate the resistance and begin the unification of all Spaniards under the conservative views of the Nationalist. The bombings started fires in the town of Guernica and destroyed roads, bridges, and other buildings, making it impossible to flee. Many women and children were harmed during the bombings. Picasso’s painting is full of symbols, yet the overall theme is one of suffering. This includes the suffering of innocent people and animals. The bull in the painting symbolizes brutality and darkness. There is also a mother with a dead child included in the painting, her head is facing the sky in an anguished cry, and her eyes are in the shape of tears. According to SpanishArt.org, This image is meant to resemble the classic Catholic image of the Virgin and the Child, albeit tainted by war (2016). There are many more symbols, but altogether Picasso depicts the awfulness of war. As a result, it has become a popular anti-war symbol. Furthermore, the last piece I would like to include is the photograph referred to as Napalm Girl by Vietnamese photojournalist Hu”іnh Cґng t. On June 8th, 1972, the South Vietnamese air force dropped a load of napalm on the Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. The image shows kids screaming and crying in anguish while soldiers are walking in a calm manner. This makes the photo powerful because it demonstrates how it is typically the innocent people who are greatly affected by war. The little girl in the photo, Kim Phuc, was hit by napalm and suffered third-degree covering a good portion of her body. According to Time.com, t’s photo of the raw impact of conflict underscored that the war was doing more harm than goodThe photo quickly became a cultural shorthand for the atrocities of the Vietnam War (2016). Innocent women and children were bombed during the Vietnam War and that is just one of the many things they went through during the War. The faces of terror on the children’s faces and the dark smoke of the bomb in the background makes t’s photo compelling and it illustrates the devastation that comes with war. I chose these three pieces for my theme of the devastation of war because all three illustrate the negative life-changing consequences that people have to endure due to war. All three pieces are from different time periods and different countries, which establishes the fact that war is horrible no matter who you are and where you are. Additionally, these pieces demonstrate that anti-war activism and beliefs have existed throughout human history for centuries. War will always have a negative impact on the human condition, but people can only do so much to prevent it. The purpose of this exhibit is to get viewers to think about those who have been impacted directly by war and see if their opinions about war being essential to human existence changes. I hope I have persuaded you with this proposal on the negative effects of war on the human condition.