Smackdown' at Wilson Chapel

Posted by Tegan O'Neil

Saratoga Smackdown: The Expendable Jane McCrea and the Soldiers of Fortune" contemplates the meaning of war by juxtaposing elements of childhood innocence with violence. Nov. 13 marked the first day of this latest installation in Wilson Chapel as part of the year-long "Theater of War in a House of Peace" program.

The artist, General Howe, created the work to draw parallels between the Battle of Saratoga that occurred in 1777 and the current conflicts transpiring in the Middle East.

According to Howe, the purpose of the exhibition is "to spark thoughts about the question, ‘How are we, as Americans, responsible for the expendable deaths in Iraq and soldiers of fortune in the Middle East today?'"

During the Revolutionary War, the British hired Native Americans to terrorize the people living in the Saratoga Springs area. One of these acts included the scalping and murder of a woman named Jane McCrea.

Not only was McCrea an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire, but she was also a British loyalist. Despite the fact that McCrea was a loyalist, her cause became a rallying point for the colonists and the atrocious event bolstered support for their side.

Just as Native Americans were hired to kill colonists by the British during the Revolutionary War, the U.S. has hired independent contractors to fight in the Middle East. The U.S. has also hired mercenaries from all over the world to fight the wars.

Howe's former student, Stefani Mladenova '14, invited him to display his work at the college. Mladenova had Howe as an art teacher at the Baccalaureate School for Global Education (BSGE) in Astoria, Queens, and was familiar with his work dealing with warfare.

Howe had previously set up installations of battle scenes with toy soldiers located where battles had occurred around Brooklyn.When Mladenova learned about the "Theater of War in a House of Peace" series, Howe's work immediately came to mind.

"When I heard about the organization I thought about his work. I thought it was important for the Skidmore community to see the effects of war and what war constitutes. I thought it would be interesting to hear what Skidmore has to say about war," Mladenova said.

Planning for the project began in early Oct. when Howe visited the college to take pictures of the campus and envisioned his site-specific exhibition. He incorporated Skidmore imagery into the hand-colored silkscreen prints that now line the walls of the Wilson Chapel.

The windows of the dormitories, the lanterns illuminating Case walkway and the student mailboxes are a few of the Skidmore motifs woven into his work.

Mladenova also has work on display in the Wilson Chapel. Her portrait of Jane McCrea is flanked by the work of fellow classmate Christina Gomez '14, also a former student of Howe. Gomez's painting of Jane McCrea is titled "Mysterious Woman" because there are many differing accounts of the legendary Jane McCrea.

In addition to the Wilson Chapel exhibit, Howe set up various installations around campus that are site-specific to Skidmore. A battle scene constructed with toy soldiers was erected on Case Green. Drawings of squirrels dressed in military clothing were glued to the water tower in North Woods. A scalped Bratz doll lies outside of Wilmarth Hall.

"The whole community is the art project. Anyone who sees the installations or comes to the Chapel is a part of the project whether they know it or not. The art has a life after you've made it," Howe said.

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