The Art of War

Lyz Bly, director of the B.K. Smith Gallery, says inspiration for the venue's latest exhibit, War: What Is It Good For? , came from the nightly news. "We started hearing about Bush's approval rating dropping and support for the war waning," she says. "And I kept thinking that the art community needs to be more engaged. It seemed like people were making more political work during the Reagan era."

The 20 artists who contribute to the show — including New York's Marcy Brafman, Pittsburgh's Wes Kline, and Cleveland's Robert Banks — explore the many facets and faces of war, albeit from an antiwar perspective. The idea was to gather pieces from various media, including paintings, sculpture, and video installations that reflect the bitterness many in the creative community feel toward the government's overseas operations. "I want people to see the visual ways to communicate angst about the war," says Bly.

And while most of the pieces launch from post-9-11 ground, Bly says, a couple pieces span entire generations of bloody combat. For example, artist Greg Cook's flags depict carnage dating back to colonial times. "They reference war from the beginning of our history," says Bly.

Just for good measure, Bly invited Columbus' Michelle Mueller, who voted for Bush in the last election, to participate. "She's doing portraits of older veterans who support the war," says Bly. "I wanted at least one person who could look at the reasons why someone might still be supportive of this war."

Still, War mainly illustrates the social and political implications of what's going on in Iraq. And it's a fairly brutal assessment. "I want people to know that artists all over the country are critical of the war," says Bly. "They're connecting war to an entire history of power."
Jan. 14-March 18