As i walked by Art 101 yesterday in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a large crowd in the small space drew my attention. The gallery is currently exhibiting Beyond the Uniform: An Exhibition of Combat Paper. The project began in 2007 as a way for veterans to reengage with civilian life and start a dialogue about our collective responsibility in war.

Through papermaking workshops, veterans use their uniforms worn in service to create works of art. The uniforms are cut up, beaten into a pulp and formed into sheets of paper. Participants use the transformative process of papermaking to reclaim their uniforms as art and express their experiences with the military.

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“Broken Rifle” by Jon Hausrath

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“Deployed” by Drew Matott

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“Heaven’s Ascent” by Drew Matott and Drew Cameron

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“Solace” by Margaret Mahan

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“Stolen Youth” by Drew Cameron and Drew Matott

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“Vortex” by Mike Blake

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“We are all free now” by Drew Cameron

I had never heard of Combat Paper. But I was blown away not only by the art itself, but the literal layers of context behind it. It’s art as homecoming, provocative discussion, insight into “real” war and therapy representing a transformation from warrior to artist. If you get the opportunity to see an exhibit, I highly recommend it. You can learn more about the program at the Combat Paper Project.