By: Julia Lees
In honor of Veterans Day, the Morris Museum in Morristown, NJ has an exhibition called ‘The Voices of Our Veterans: Combat Paper NJ’ to honor veterans and give them a voice to speak of their time serving. This is organized by The Combat Paper Project, a nonprofit organization that teaches veterans how to make paper out of old uniforms. The paper is made by shredding uniforms, then soaking them until they turn to pulp. From here, the pulp is pressed, pulled, and dried. At this point the veterans can paint, draw, or write whatever they wish. The goal is to help veterans cope with their experiences in war. The organization believes that “a uniform worn through military service carries with it stories and experiences that are deeply imbued in the woven threads.” This exhibit gave veterans a platform to communicate what they saw during their time of service.
Although each piece of paper was created in the same way, each veteran told unique stories through varied mediums and artistic styles. Many told literal stories, through poetry and text printed on the paper, while others created paintings and drawings. One painting, titled ‘Damascus,’ colored in only blue and black, displayed the city of Damascus, the capital of Syria, in ruins with a group of three walking through what was once a street. Another, named ‘Why I Don’t Write War Stories’ includes text scrawled in cut up newspaper with a tank as a background to his words. Alternatively, some papers had a subtle dark humor to them. One depicted a parachute with a pan attached. In bubble letters across the bottom the artist wrote ‘parasoup dujour.’
All of these unique pieces of art told truly personal stories of war and hardship. This exhibit showed how different people express themselves in different ways. It was a truly unique exhibit that gave all viewers a small glimpse into the mind of New Jersey Veterans. The Combat Paper Project offers people the chance to repurpose their uniforms and channel pain into something poetic and beautiful. This exhibit, ‘The Voices of Our Veterans: Combat Paper NJ’ will be open at the Morris Museum until November 19th.