La Raza Group
The Veteran's Project
By John K. Grande
Canada 's key role as a defender of the sovereignty of European nations and peoples' human and political rights during the First and Second World Wars and other conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries has been well documented by historians. What we see less of are monuments and artist¹s interpretations of these events and of our contribution. Founded in 1988, the La Raza group was born out of a desire to transform public attitudes to art. Art, for La Raza, has a social role to play enriching Canadian society. While Montreal has been the focus for their activity, their vision of a popular public art is truly Canadian. La Raza members Frank Caprani, Scott MacLeod and Gerald Pedros have worked in collaboration with various groups in producing artworks and events.
For the Veteran's Project La Raza believe that Canada¹s military involvement as a peacekeeper and defender of human rights needs input from younger generations of Canadians. While artists like Charles Comfort, Jack Nichols, Jack Shadbolt and David Milne have documented the destruction and war experience firsthand, La Raza would like to pay tribute to many Veteran's who have sacrificed their lives, their youth for the great causes of world peace and political sovereignty.
The tribute to Canada's military peacekeepers and defender of human rights and democracy will consist of a series of 20 portraits of Canadian men and woman who have served in the Canadian war effort during the 20th and 21st Century. The portraits will attempt to portray and capture the individual character of these everyday Canadians.
The paintings will involve combining a variety of media. Executed on paper and Mylar, they will have a ceremonial look. Their presentation in shadow boxes enables the inclusion of interpretive text works by the artist Sylvia Curtis-Norcross. These 'texts' will be woven into the paintings. Actual veteran's artifacts such as medals, letters, souvenirs, and real photos will be integrated within the shadow boxes, thus including actual documentary traces, testaments to the real war experience. Viewers will be able to see them firsthand, along with La Raza group's painted portraits as an ensemble.
Seeing early military photos inside the shadow box presented on an angled base, and even original historic documents and artifacts alongside the portrait works will give the museum or gallery-going public a more engaging and exciting vision of our role as a defender of peace and national sovereignty for peoples of the world. Bringing the experience to life, rendering homage to Canada 's military, La Raza will contribute to a long tradition of wartime depiction and tributes by Canadian artists. This museological yet artistic Veteran¹s Project will hopefully be exhibited this year on Remembrance Day 2005.
While the venue is yet to be determined, there are several appropriate exhibition sites including the Royal Canadian Regiment Museum . The expectation is that this Homage to Canada 's past and present military history will subsequently tour to various museums, galleries, cultural sites in Canada and overseas with the assistance of Canada 's Foreign Affairs service.
It is the La Raza group's hope that in paying homage to Canada 's war vets, their paintings will testify to their great human sacrifice. It is this sacrifice that has given us the present day freedoms we enjoy today in Canada .
This group project has jointly be conceived and produced with curator Clause Breede from The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum in London , Ontario . (www.rcrmuseum.ca)