Inside Goose Creek Studio just below Main Street, the dominant color is not black but red.
“Red became one of the surprising unifying elements to the show, whether it was the poppies, the chess pieces, the red in the flags,” says Goose Creek co-owner Patrick Ellis, who curated the Bedford gallery’s newest exhibit “Anamnesis: The Art of Remembering.”
The show, which is on display through July 6, is meant as a creative response to the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
The six artists who contributed work to “Anamnesis,” Ellis included, did not plan the coordination, he says. But it was the color everyone gravitated toward.
“We know the museum, the D-Day memorial and a lot of the downtown shops would be decorated or focused on the historical aspects of the day,” says Ellis.
“We wanted to explore how creative folks would tie that particular story into the larger story of not only war and sacrifice but also where we are as a world today.”
As the name of the exhibit, which means “a recalling to mind,” implies, the Bedford gallery chose to center its show on the idea of memory — how our recollections help us define our past and how they help guide our future.
As a collection of works, “Anamnesis” does both, while also exploring deeper ideas as the pieces weave their story together and relay a different message.
“It’s about how these visions interact with each other, and almost the meaning comes in between,” Ellis says.
Sparkling in light that pours through the gallery’s windows, Janet Chalker’s glass mosaic “Victory Garden” depicts a field of poppies before a mountain range.
The piece, she says, was meant to honor Bedford’s connection to D-Day as well as her grandfather, a World War I veteran who would hand out red poppies as part of his work with Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Exactly 35 poppies appear in “Victory Garden,” one for each of the men from Bedford who fought on Omaha Beach that day in 1944; 19 of them of have gold stars in the center of their petals, a reminder of the soldiers who never made it home.
“This is very much trying to remember the sacrifice,” says the Forest-based Chalker. “... When I look at people who are [in] military service, I often think that we don’t really understand their sacrifice.”
On one of the walls, Helen Hubler’s oil paintings, which she created during the Iraq War, illustrate the psychological damage of warfare.
“I don’t think that anybody comes back unscathed,” the Daleville artist says. “... Their lives are affected by it.”
The agonized faces of the children in “Iraqi Scream,” which riffs on Edvard Munch’s iconic painting, are immediately attention-grabbing, but it is the eyes of the soldiers in the works on either side — the haunted look as they stare into the distance — that lingers.
“It needs to be said that [war’s] a bad thing, and the best way I can think to do it is through individual human terms and the pain they feel,” she says.
Beneath a verse from The Book of Daniel that hangs from the ceiling at the center of the exhibit rests a blood-red table with an inlaid chess board. More than triple the size of most standard chess boards, the game symbolizes the ongoing cycle of war and tyranny that dates back to ancient times, Ellis says.
The chessmen that sit atop the black and white squares each have a skull emblazoned on their chests.
“The original idea was to do the chess pieces differently,” says Ellis. “The more I thought about it, the more I thought, ‘Nobody survives this. It’s all about death. There’s no life in any of this cycle of destruction and greed and power.’”
When asked how “Anamnesis” connects to the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the gallery owner is quick to answer.
Right now, we as a country are between chapters in the book that tells our history, he says, referencing a quote by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. We have a chance to decide where we want our story to go, and the legacy we wish to leave.
“Stories like D-Day, if we bring them forward, can help us understand where we want to go next,” Ellis continues.
It’s the message at the heart of Pat Daugherty’s installation, “What are We Fighting For?,” which hangs on the wall opposite Hubler’s oil paintings and features small, black-and-white portraits of the 19 Bedford Boys atop the red and white stripes of the American flag.
The faded style of the stripes, different from the crispness of the portraits, mirrors the flag in the background of the installation’s final piece. The painting, originally included in Goose Creek’s “Remembering Charlottesville” exhibit last year, depicts a group of young counter-protesters unflinchingly staring into the face of hate.
“If you ask the historic question, ‘Why did the boys go from Bedford?’ you get this amazing patriotic answer: They went to preserve democracy and freedom,” Ellis says. “For many people, we feel like those things are at risk in our own country right now. What are we willing to sacrifice?”