Cases 2 and 3 are tiled with the side-by-side video boxes of 115 films that concern the Vietnam War. These 115 films represent only about 6 percent of the films held in The Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War Collection (the largest scholarly collection of its kind in the world.) More importantly for the artist, though, is that they represent an extravagant array of the astounding stereotypes, myths, legends, fantasy, and sheer nonsense that has become ingrained in the American public consciousness “about” the Vietnam War. Placing these endless examples together recreates the affect imprinted on Jane Irish’s mind as she came to be aware of the 1700 commercial, documentary, TV productions, and animated films now archived. Following on the heels of her initial astonishment and uneasy laughter at the sheer panoply of these cultural stereotypes and wildly inaccurate misconceptions about both the War and its various categories of participants (e.g. the “regular” GI, the wounded, Vietnamese nationals from both sides, non-combatant women & children, female soldiers and nurses,) Irish began seeing visual and conceptual patterns. Placing them at the heart of her painting was the way she chose, as an artist, to confront the nonsense, interrogate the reason for it existence, and to counter the stereotypes.
Thus, superimposed over the cacophony of stereotypes created by the box covers, appear visual images that she decided could act as a counterbalancing reality. In Case 3 are representations of “regular” GI’s—placed against the stereotyped wild-eyed, drug-crazed, psychopathic returning veteran-- existing alongside those veterans who were indeed irreparably damaged by PTSD or who, in the face terrible wounds of body and psyche, decided to become agents of change for their comrades through Vet Centers, mentoring programs, war resisters, and a commitment to teaching their non-veteran neighbors at home that “War is Not What You Think.”View the Full Case.