No better case could be made for the healing, bonding and expressive power of art than the moving exhibit now hanging across four floors of the Market Arcade at Buffalo’s CEPA Gallery (617 Main Street, Buffalo). Entitled “Odyssey/Warriors Come Home,” the exhibit and the workshop that led up to it is the brainchild of Buffalo photojournalist Brendan Bannon. Bannon conceived of the project as a series of four 12-week workshops designed to help vets explore how photography can tell stories and forge connections. “There is a boot camp to prepare soldiers to go to war, but there is no boot camp to reintegrate them into civilian life,” Bannon observed.
If the work hanging from the rafters and walls of the Market Arcade is any indication, the “Odyssey” project is a brilliant success, offering powerful testimony of how deeply the participating veterans engaged with their peers, their mentors and themselves. In photos, words and mesmerizing life-sized self-portraits 37 combat veterans show a visitor the profound and deeply personal impact of war.
The exhibit features a variety of photography mediums, most notably and dramatically a suite of seven-foot-tall blue cyanotypes printed on fabric that hang from the Market Arcade atrium. According to Bannon, the veterans made impressions of themselves by laying on the canvas in the sun and adding objects next to them that helped define their self-portrait. “These light infused images are the impressions of human bodies,” Bannon said. “They are deep with personal symbolism. They remind us that soldiers lay their bodies on the line every day.”
The “Odyssey” exhibit spans all four floors of the Market Arcade. Despite the expansive space devoted to it, the building can barely contain the intensity of the emotions expressed in this body of work as these veterans struggle with memory, loss, love, war and coming home through the medium of photography.
“Odyssey/Warriors Come Home” is on exhibit at CEPA Gallery (617 Main Street, Buffalo) through December 28, 2019.
Photographs courtesy of Brendan Bannon