Jesse Albrecht is an artist and the Creative Arts Director for a non-profit that works with active duty military families, spouses, and Gold Star children. Albrecht was half way through his MFA program (ceramics) at the University of Iowa when he was deployed to Iraq. His work explores the collision of war myth and reality through the physical and mental aesthetics of combat, and the aftermath. He lives and works in Montana, utilizes multiple mediums, and has work in numerous permanent collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The National Archives, and The Library of Congress.
I was walking to a graduate school life drawing class when I saw the news show a plane fly into the World Trade Center. Three semesters later I was in Iraq, deployed with the Iowa National Guard as a medic.
They didn’t issue me my aid bag.
They also forgot to issue the ceramic plates (SAPI—small arms protective insert) that would actually stop bullets, until just before we came home. My squad ran daily security missions outside the wire in and around Mosul, in addition to our medic duties.
I make my work like the Iraq war.
The emotional aesthetic of war is imprinted on me I hope to show people. Maybe it will provide a tiny glimpse behind the curtain, the myth, and rhetoric that is sold and packaged as war. Not because I enjoy it or want to—because I have to. It is important for people to feel what war does to those who serve--and something that isn’t really talked about, because it is ugly and disturbing, which leaves everyone feeling worse about themselves and usually destroys the evening. Really talking about war challenges the war myth, our national narrative, and all it veils.
I didn’t have the clay that would stop bullets when I was in Iraq, but I was saved by ceramics. Not in a way that makes you feel warm and fuzzy—think more of a choking sob, suicide, night terror, overdose, prison kind of way.
Don’t kid yourself thinking art has healed me--I made it for you.