Artists often gain vital inspiration from kinetic art, happenings, and performance art, guerrilla theatre and public fringe or “resistance” events. During an early exploratory visit to The Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War Collection at La Salle the artist stumbled across a rare 1991 documentary film entitled Different Sons. The filmed narrative of Different Sons, in various ways, became both the primary vehicle of inspiration and underlying narrative of much of the artistic work that Jane Irish would create over the next 10 years of her life.
In the late summer of 1970, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War organized Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdrawal) a four-day march by 100+ Vietnam veterans from Morristown, NJ to Valley Forge, PA. Different Sons records that event and the personal reminiscences of the participants. During the march, the veterans described their experiences in Vietnam to spectators and re-enacted scenes of civilian mistreatment which they had witnessed during the war. On the last day of the march the veterans were welcomed to Valley Forge by 2000 friends and relatives and the media. In the closing ceremonies honoring those killed and wounded in Vietnam, the now 200 participants ceremoniously smashed their plastic M-16 rifles amidst a chant for peace.
Irish, in 2004, sought out the veterans who participated in the original 4 day march, talked with the film's maker, and then - over a 10 day period - literally traced on the ground the entire route of march that they followed. Irish would stop at various places along the route and draw, photograph, and paint what she saw. It is these 19 plein air paintings that form both the inspiration and physical heart of the 60-artist joint exhibit in 2005 entitled Operation Rapid American Withdrawal, 1970-2005: an Exhibition. It was one of the largest combined exhibits of original art ever assembled to commemorate war resistance and the idea of the Vietnam War as it remained in the active public culture of the USA.View the Full Case.