A Proper Thank You Aidyn Hankins and Evan Roth Acrylic on Canvas April 2017
Our piece depicts how the contributions of women made it possible for the Allies to win World War II. In front of the stage, there are United States military men saluting three women on stage. This represents the gratitude that women deserved after their service, which was overlooked by the demands of the returning soldiers. The women on the stage represent different roles that women served before, during, and after the war: a housewife and mother, a “Rosie the Riveter” worker, and a military servicewoman. Obviously, women served in a multitude of roles, but we chose the three that we felt were most widely representative.
The driving force for our piece is Aidyn’s interest in gender equality. Her passion led us to look further into women’s roles in WWII. This was a period where women struggled and strove to prove that they were capable of carrying the weight of wartime, and working in what had been thought of as “manly” jobs- factories, farms, etc. Unfortunately, while WWII-era women succeeded in making large contributions to the war effort, we continue to see the effects of gender inequality today in the continued debate over the pay gap, maternity leave, and child care. The truth that we wish to share is that women played a huge part during the war, that their efforts were not and have not been recognized, and that this time period was the first big step toward gender equality.
After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, the US became fully involved in World War II. The US government shipped young men out for duty, causing a labor shortage in the jobs traditionally filled by men. This caused problems for families stateside, but really hurt the military's supply chain. The government turned to the women of America and asked for them to come work and support the troops, which caused several iconic pieces of propaganda to be circulated. After the war, men expected to return to their lives and their jobs, but found them occupied by women who, in some cases, were reluctant to leave work they found more gratifying than staying at home. Conflict arose and women have still not fully experienced the respect, wage earnings, and advancement that men have enjoyed and taken for granted.
We used acrylic on a canvas to give it a classic look, something we thought would represent the period and theme. To start, we brainstormed and created a draft depicting our thoughts about what would best represent this truth. From the draft, we transferred the sketch to the canvas where we made refinements in proportions, small details, and final placement. The final step was to paint in what was sketched and add detail with painting.
The two original ideas for the project that we had to decide between were terrorist attacks or women's roles during WWII. The other ideas that were tossed around had to do with how we were going to represent our topic. An idea arose to do a mural or painting, either a single canvas or a three-piece canvas (triptych) that would be spread across. We came to the conclusion that we would make a single painting depicting women around WWII. For the decision, we talked about the interest for the themes and the timeline given to physically create the project.
How did we explore the truth of war in this project? We explored the truth of war in many different ways. One way we explored the truth of war was by reading the book, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. In this book O’Brien, a Vietnam veteran, talks about what the men carried with them both physically and emotionally and what is true in war. We also interviewed two Vietnam veterans who shared their stories with us. The second veteran, Calixto Cabrera, started his interview by saying, “I’m not going to sugar coat anything and I won’t be able to get through this without crying a few times.” That was exactly what he did. He told us everything about his experience. He shared his truth of war with us. We also did independent research based on our specific projects.
How did you strengthen your skills during this project? I feel like I strengthened a lot of skills during this project. One that I find I strengthened the most was collaboration. Since I had a partner in this project, it took a lot of collaboration to complete this project and to make sure that we were getting everything done. This required us splitting up tasks and checking in with each other at the beginning of the class period to ensure we had all of our bases covered. Another skill that I think improved was my drawing and painting. I had to put my skills to the test during this project. I found that I put a lot of time and effort into making sure my outlines and the actual painting was the best that it could be. What enduring understandings will you take away from this project? This project really opened my eyes to a lot of things. You always hear about how terrible war is and of veterans struggling with PTSD but to be in the same room as someone who actually saw these horrors and knows what it’s like to be in a life or death situation is very surreal. This made me really think about how privileged I am and how grateful I am to have the life I do and to not have to deal with something that painful everyday. It also made me realize that war is not something to be taken lightly at all. It is a decision that needs to be seriously considered and the consequences need to be weighed carefully.