Jane Irish has been drawing visual inspiration and historical research contexts from the Connelly Library’s world‐renowned rare book and manuscript collection, Imaginative Representations of the Vietnam War, for the past 10 years. Maintained in the Department of Special Collections, it contains over 20,000 creative items related to the Vietnam War, including novels, short stories, poetry, music, screenplays, graphic art, films, sound recordings, posters, prints, video and board games, as well as literary and visual pornography. Irish worked closely with John Baky, Director of Libraries and Curator of Special Collections to select material from the Vietnam Collection to craft an exhibition in the Library that would juxtapose those films, books, and graphics that served as inspiration against the artwork itself.
This image gallery displays the panels that were constructed by Jane Irish and hung over the exhibit cases in the Library Exhibition. The four blue panels were reproductions of the 36 foot mural, The Conversation which hung in the Art Museum Exhibition. In these panels it can be seen where Irish adapted the conception of palimpsest, pentimenti, and engraving by incorporating actual text letters into and onto her canvas (Tyvec.) The effect was to suggest a living presence in the poetry attempting to step forth into the exhibit space.
In placing the cool, blue panels at the center of the Exhibition space, it was the artist's intention to create a feeling that was "empathetic-- also holistic including ourselves in the history." The outer face of the panels, which surrounded the perimeter of the Library space and confront the visitor as s/he enters, exhibit four "leitmotifs" in a fiery contrast of red and yellow. The motifs, which examined popular culture memory were created by John Baky and Jane Irish, who collaborated in selecting and photographing specifically powerful graphics and texts from the Vietnam Collection. The resulting halftone screen collage was silk-screened onto composition board and suspended from wire above the cases. The front and back panels, and the items in the cases hold a "dialog" which attempts to "redirect" the history from that of the often skewed history of the Vietnam War in popular memory.