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Craig Reis

Craig Reis

Prior to my academic career, I spent four years in the US Navy as an aviation structural mechanic, and served in the Persian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom. While I value my military experience, it has left me with regrettable feelings for my part in what we have done to another group of people. While I never directly caused bodily harm, I was a vital part of launching aircraft that left with ordinance and returned without.

This body of work, titled Collateral Damage, utilizes vessel making techniques which I’ve presented in a sculptural format. I chose to incorporate metal throughout this work as it is indicative of military weaponry, such as a copper jacket on ammunition or the skin panels for the F-18 aircraft I worked on while serving in the military. Metal is also inherently seen as having permanence, which reflects the lasting impacts of our actions during the Iraq War. The metalwork is paired with wood which has been turned on a lathe, which I have then scorched through a process known as fractal wood burning. These branded wood pucks are reminiscent of the bird’s eye view of an aerial assault target and the aftermath of our ordnance.

At the time I was enlisted, our actions seemed easy to justify; the government was easier to trust, and the pain of 9/11 was much closer. With time, new information and perspective, our involvement in Iraq was clearly wrong, and has left us and the world in a more dangerous situation. Some of the blood we spilt is on my hands for my part in it and this body of work reflects some of that sense of destruction and regret. These thoughts and feelings are hard to address, both internally and externally as the Iraq war remains a sensitive subject for many, with strong feelings on both sides of the arguments.

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