On September 21, 1966, Marine Sergeant Thomas Patrick Kindt was killed in a firefight in Vietnam. He left behind a wife and a son, Tom Hubbard, who at the time was just two years old. Hubbard would grow up knowing his father only through photographs and the fragmented writing of his elders.
It wasn't until 1998, when his own son was two, that Hubbard, already an established artist, embarked on an investigation of his father's life and the war that took it. For the next 18 months, Hubbard read through volumes of war histories and initiated countless conversations with veterans his father's associates. The research led him on a five-week sojourn to Vietnam and the village where his father died.
The result of this expressive and agonizingly personal research is Semper Fidelis: How I Met My Father, a collection of 20 mixed-media pieces that weave together the narratives of Kindt's life and his son's attempt to discover it. As Hubbard writes in his artist's statement: "This body of work does not merely represent my relationship with my father — it is my relationship with him." The series will be showing at Kent State University's Downtown Gallery beginning this weekend.
Though Hubbard had previous worked with combinations of photography, ceramics, and text, this is the first time he has incorporated all three in a single show. They come together in the exhibition's titular piece, "Semper Fidelis," which consists of 17 raku and electric-fired ceramic vessels stamped with pictures of Sergeant Kindt and featuring prose tributes to the man. Some of them are formal, with the tact and clinical professionalism of a military report; others are more personal ("He would be so proud of you").
The viewer is led through the same scattered remarks by which Hubbard came to know his father, and in the same aimless order. In this way, we come to understand some of his confusion. "It was all abstract and vague," he says. "I did it to get my head around it." Now that the confused is lucid, the viewer, too, might be heartbroken by the realization of how a loss can be felt for a lifetime.
An opening reception will be held Thursday, March 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. The show runs through May 12 at 141 East Main St.; call 330-676-1549 or go to galleries.kent.edu to learn more.