Surrealism and War

Surrealism and War

Date: 5/26/2014 - 10/30/2014


Surrealism and War is an exhibition of veterans’ artwork that explores the relationship 

between Surrealism and the experience of war.

Surrealism is an attempt to revolt against the inherent contradictions of a society ruled by rational thought while dominated by war and oppression. Surrealism seeks expression of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason and free of aesthetic and moral preoccupation. It is this same absence of control exercised by reason that many combat veterans seek to explore and express after their experiences in war. Surrealism & War features the artwork of nine veteran artists that intentionally and unintentionally use and explore Surrealist processes and concepts.

Of noteSurrealism & War includes the seminal work, The Earth Lies Screaming, by Jim Leedy, a Korean War veteran who was one of only two Americans invited to participate in the largest Surrealist exhibition ever assembled at the Retretti Art Center, Finland, an exhibition that began with Miro, Dali, and DuChamp, and culminated with several works by Mr. Leedy.

About the Artists

William Dugan served in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and currently lives and works in Missouri.

Stan Gillett served in the Army in Vietnam and currently lives and works in Georgia.

Michael Helbing served in the Army in Vietnam and currently lives and works in Illinois.

David Keefe served in the Marine Corps in Iraq and currently lives and works in New Jersey.

Jim Leedy served in Korean War and currently lives and works in Missouri

Robynn Murray served in the Army in Iraq and currently lives and works in New York.

Giuseppe Pellicano served in the Army in Kosovo and currently lives and works in Oregon.

 Ehren Tool served in the Marine Corps in the Gulf War and currently lives and works in California.

Richard Yohnka was from Illinois and served in the Army in Vietnam. He passed away in 1997.


From the curator: 

“This show is transformational for veterans that often feel isolated in their experiences. It is not only bringing an intergenerational group of veterans together but also showing the connection to one of the most powerful modern art movements Surrealism. Which was dominated by veterans.

There is is a deep historical relationship between veterans and surrealism. The founder of the term surrealism, Guillaume Apollinaire, and the primary surrealist theorists, Andre Breton, where both World War One veterans. Furthermore, veterans’ artwork, which explores and expresses the experience of war, has historically resulted in works that negotiate similar aesthetic and conceptual concerns as surrealism – including exploring unconscious, automatism, disfigured bodies, juxtaposed symbols, found objects, and nonsensical language.

It is so important for veteran artist to see themselves and their work in relationship to the history of art and artist. My generation of veterans is not the first to come home from war and express the realities and traumas of war through art. This exhibition brings that history to light and demonstrates the the connection between what Iraq veterans are doing with what Vietnam, Korean, and World War One veterans have done.”  ­—Aaron Hughes