You should expect to see yourself in Margaret Evangeline’s LSU Museum of Art exhibit, “Margaret Evangeline: ON WAR,” which runs through Sunday, Aug. 2. It’s her way of letting you know that war isn’t someone else’s problem. It’s yours.
The message also can be felt in the video installation Evangeline produced with John Gray, a graduate student in the LSU School of Art.
“Margaret has a unique perspective on war,” says Katie Pfohl, LSU Museum of Art curator. “She figures out how to use art to talk about social issues.”
They titled it, “As Dreams Have Been to Me in My Young Boyhood.” It’s projected onto the entire span of the main gallery’s back wall, listing every recorded war and conflict in the world over an ocean’s perpetual waves. Just as the water continues moving, time keeps marching forward as if these conflicts never happened.
Evangeline didn’t set out to make a statement about war with this show. It’s just the way everything came together.
“The exhibit is made up of different parts of my work,” says Evangeline, speaking from her studio in New York. “But I realized after Katie came here and chose the pieces for the show that these things — sometimes but not always — have to do with war. They’re all off-kilter and some weren’t specifically about war.”
Sometimes, the artwork simply harkens back to childhood, the times Evangeline visited her grandfather in Ville Platte. He’s the one who taught her how to shoot a shotgun, and she remembers how the pellet holes through the target reminded her of something opposite of war.
“When I looked at the holes from the opposite side, they looked like flowers,” Evangeline says. Bullet holes through metal would become a signature of her work. Her grandfather didn’t use his gun for war.
“He was coming out of the ’30s and the Depression, and he used the gun for hunting, to sustain his family’s life,” Evangeline says. “I found a photograph of my grandfather and me when I was about 4 years old. He came to Baton Rouge to visit. He’s dressed in his tie, vest and hat, and I’m sitting on a tricyle. The picture was taken where the courthouse is now, about a block from the museum, and there’s an Esso sign in the back of us.”
The LSU show also includes paintings and mixed media, and through it comes an evolution that begins with the artist’s 1988 mixed media piece, “Krystallnacht.”
In it, Evangeline turned to toy sheriff badges to express her thoughts when her son joined LSU’s ROTC program in the 1980s. The museum label says the badges are “a symbol for Evangeline’s desire to protect her son in the manner she had done when he was a child.”
Her son eventually would join the Air Force and deploy to Iraq. This would lead to the “Sabachthani Installation.”
The work is made up of a series of small metal bars filled with bullet holes. They’ve been exhibited in museums throughout the United States. In the LSU Museum of Art, they occupy the walls surrounding the video installation.
With the “Sabachthani Installation,” Evangeline collaborated with U.S. soldiers.
“There was a joint military base in Iraq, and my son was deployed there as a pilot. I asked him to bring some of the metal bars there and ask soldiers to shoot them.
He understands what making the mark on the metal means to me,” she says. “So, they did it and sent the metal back to me. I thought they should have the same experience that I have when they shoot to make art. They all kind of got it, and my son made a video of them. It’s the only way that I have tactile evidence that my son was there.”
The results were a surprise with the bullet holes looking more like braille than violence. This touched Evangeline. “They’re arranged around a room like the ‘Way of the Cross,’” she says. “It’s a way to heal the chasm between families.”
Evangeline has two sons. Both attended the exhibit’s opening on March 12 with their families. “It’s a homecoming for us,” she says.