War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

Scott Waters/the marginalization of the war artist

Wow! I just found out that my fellow war artist and friend, Scott Waters has won the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his contributions “documenting and contextualizing” Canadian [military] history! a humble fellow, he never let me know about this and it was only through reading his website that I read this!

Scott is a two-time CFAP participant and has been a major inspiration and sounding board for me over these years as I work away in isolation. he writes about the marginalization of the war artist in this posting on his website.

he writes: However, what I wanted to poke around is the confluence of War Art and Canada. Like nuts and gum perhaps. While this country has one of the longest and most distinguished histories of the genre, if you operate (or try to operate) in the realm of contemporary art, there is an unspoken… and sometimes spoken sentiment that the only good war art is no war art. Or war art that’s overtly critical of war.

So while I’m committed to doing what I do, there is an understanding that while public and commercial galleries are more than happy to offer their viewing audience repeated interpretations of contemporary Cdn. landscape or the intersections of digital and traditional media, very little slack is offered to war art.

I’m well aware that making such statements will incur the wrath of some readers (this, of course, assumes there are readers), but the truth is that being a “war artist” in Canada means you are operating in the ghetto.

Scott comments on war artists’ marginalization should send neither him nor me nor anyone of our colleagues to the whinny corner (a sniper instructor whom I know regularly sends his complainers there when they grumble about freezing their ***** off out in the field). it’s our reality. publishers, unless it’s for November issues, are tepid about poetry written around or about the war. ditto galleries. and one of my colleagues won’t categorize himself as a war artist even though his war drifts like smoke off the fire-scorched hills of Shilo or Suffield on Ex during live-fire.

it’s always amusing to me when people speak wistfully about how they’d like to be an artist, a writer. I wonder if they know what lonely work it is, with little pay, recognition, etc. (common question: when are you going to get a job?), often filled self-doubt.

I met a stone mason recently and we were talking about our work – his on old churches and currently, on an Edwardian staircase, I, the requiem, my PhD. he told me that it’s low paying work, he does not get a lot of respect etc., and it occurred to me that stone masons share this with poets/artists. and yet who does our culture turn to in times of joy and grief? his Edwardian staircase is used for wedding photos, he works on memorials for the dead, and churches, sites of memory and of christenings and love. I write of love and mourning (and everything in between).

but I digress … or maybe I should just go to the whinny corner

but all of this is to say why it’s so f’ing wonderful that Scott has been honoured so. he deserves it, and so much more. Scott, I am very happy for you, proud of you, inspired by you, so pleased to count you as one of my colleagues.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled Scott Waters/the marginalization of the war artist. It was posted here on September 16, 2012.

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