See also “Full Plastic Jacket” my interview with Ehren Tool, June, 2014, with photos.
The Palo Alto Art Center is hosting a show on veterans’ art, featuring the ceramicist Ehren Tool. Here is their description of his work, although the residency is more interactive and requires a little more describing.
Ehren Tool creates visually compelling ceramic objects that address the experience of war. He is best known for his cups, which are wheel-thrown and feature decal-produced and embossed images and symbols of war, violence, and the veteran experience. Notably, Tool has given away most of these cups, offering more than 14,000 of them to members of various communities since 2001. His primary intention with his artwork is to promote awareness: “I decorate cups with images of war and violence. The use of these icons reveals how abstract war is for most of our culture—so abstract in fact, that somehow it’s OK to use images of war as toys.” Tool has exhibited his vessels at institutions such as the Oakland Museum of California, the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, the Berkeley Art Center, the Bellevue Arts Museum, the Euphrat Museum of Art in Cupertino, and the de Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University. He received his MFA from the University of California, Berkeley and his BFA from the University of Southern California.
This seems to be an indicative work by Tool:
Terry and I bought three of Ehren Tool’s mugs at the Veterans View 3 show at Bridgehead Studio Gallery on Blanding in Alameda, in 2012. Now that I think about it, the curator said that the mugs were indeed free, but it was appropriate to make a small cash donation in the exchange, which we gladly obliged.
A mystery I brought home from that show was about not Ehren Tool but Jim Hardy and his wood carving of a soldier from Palo Alto. I shot this photo of the work — the soldier wrote his hometown on his helmet. Hardy had said that he remembered the man as being from California but it was not until he created the carving years later from photographs that he noticed the telling graffito.
So who was this Palo Altan who served in Vietnam? Did he make it home okay?
Thank you all 3 of you — Tool, Hardy and The Unknown Palo Alto Soldier — for your service for our country.
edit to add: this is what I wrote at the time, in a post that was a subtle Les Blank tribute: Burdens of DREAMs: dude reads everything and more:
Bridgehead Gallery “Veterans Voices3″ with Ed Holmes, Xavier Viramontes, Thomas Dang and more, chapbook by Eric “Doc” Schwartz, “Chieu Hoi: I surrender”, Izzy Sher aka Emil Sher… “Christmas Calabash” upcoming show at Bridgehead curated by Eve Myasaki, which reminds that when we were driving around Alameda looking for Bridgehead and then circled back to re-read the flyer I heard “tire and mirror” (and Bridgestone) rather than “tile and mirror” (for Bridgehead); Mark P. Fisher, at RCW thru Jan. 4, 2013 — and that’s the first time I typed the next year lucky 13.
We (had seen) on Park saw a poster for an art gallery called Bridgestone on Blanding and eventually found our way there, thanks to gallery manager the photographer Chuck DiGuida, who reeled us in by phone. The show there was curated by Ed Holms, who I saw in SF Mime Troupe’s 2011 show at Mitchell Park in Palo Alto. His wife runs the nearby Rhythmix Cultural Mix Gallery…The other thing about Bridgehead is the amazing mural by Isiah Zagar and a crew of local 510 devotees; I didn’t realize until sussing via the search-injuns that of course this is the guy from Philadelphia who did the Painted Bride.
Here is a picture of what the interactive Palo Alto work by Ehren Tool might end up looking like — my dad is a World War II Navy vet — I wonder if I can coax him into being part of this show. The residency starts in June and the show will be July thru September:
Detailed story by Bonnie Powell at UC Berkeley news sites — Tool, after serving in Desert Storm, got an MFA from Berkeley.
Leah Ollman, in the LA Times, last summer, says that Tool has produced more than 14,000 of his mugs.
Great interview and beautiful photos at In The Make website of artist studio visits by Klea McKenna and Nikki Grattan.
How will you know when you have arrived?
When they put my corpse in the furnace.
edit to add: our little Tool gallery:
My father Paul Weiss served on an LCI FF boat, landing craft infantry flag flotilla, and has survived 68 years, 7 months and counting after the Japanese surrender. Maybe Ehren can incorporate this recent photo into one of the mugs:
edit to add two weeks later: had a nice chat with Ed Holmes who has a lead on how to reach Hardy but also suggested I call Tool, both to express my enthusiasm for his show and gauge his reaction to my idea of using the opportunity to work on this related idea. Also I found this article by George Packer in April 7, New Yorker on books by soldiers. I’ll never get to reading the article, likely, but I noted this lift from Hemingway, “A Farewell To Arms”:
I had seen nothing sacred, and the things that were glorious had no glory and the sacrifices were like the stockyards at Chicago if nothing was done with the meat except to bury it. There were many words that you could not stand to hear and finally only the names of places had dignity.
edit to add, a day after that: Karen Kienzle pointed out an interesting article about Ehren Tool in The Believer, from which I have lifted this excerpt, something typical of Ehren’s outreach, getting the word out about his work:
Dear Mr. Riley Bechtel
I served in the Marines for five years.
One day the marines will look back on what they did, and the value of their sacrifice. If your organization and other American corporations fail to help the Iraqi people in real ways, I am afraid it will be more difficult for the Marines to see the sacrifices they made as being of value. Please accept this cup I made as a gift. It is food safe. Sincerely W.A. Ehren Tool.
(This link provides a brief excerpt but maybe you can order a back issue or find it somewhere, or ask Karen Kienzle if you see her).