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Men Die, But History Lives — The Books of Kevin Carson

The Pacific Northwest 91st Division during World War I, photo courtesy of Kevin Carson

The Pacific Northwest 91st Division during World War I, photo courtesy of Kevin Carson

It’s been called The Great War and The War to End All Wars.

Those accustomed to learning history from Hollywood movies might guess the event to be World War II, but that one is known as The Good War. Our war in question is World War I, which could understandably be called The Forgotten War if the appellation weren’t already taken by the Korean War (brought out of obscurity by the T.V. show, M*A*S*H).

The Dayton Congregational Church's World War I Service Banner honors men of the area who fought in the war. Carson's great uncle, Fred Bauer, is represented in the gold star

The Dayton Congregational Church’s World War I Service Banner honors men of the area who fought in the war.

But all wars are memorable to the people who fought in them, as well as to the survivors of those who died, military or civilians. For Kevin Carson, a former Dayton resident who researches Pacific Northwest history, World War I hits close to home.

“I have always been interested in World War I,” Carson says. “As a young person, I saw it through the eyes of my grandfather, Art Carson, who had lost his brother (Fred Carson) in the Meuse Argonne campaign.

“It was still as painful for him as it was on the day that Fred died.”

Fred’s name and memory are memorialized on a World War I Service Banner, found stuffed in the attic of the Dayton Congregational Church, and later framed for display and presentation. In all, 42 names are listed, representing those associated with just that church who were sent overseas. Many others from Dayton served as well, members of the 91st, or Wild West Division, encompassing soldiers from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, and Wyoming.

It is this group men upon which Carson focuses in his upcoming book, The Wild West Boys, from which he will be reading excerpts during an appearance at Wenaha Gallery over Dayton’s Alumni Weekend, July 16. At the forefront of hard fighting in France and Belgium, the 91st Division was part of the Meuse Argonne Offensive, one of the largest campaigns in military history and instrumental to bringing the war to its end. The Offensive involved 1.2 million U.S. soldiers, of which more than 26,000 died and 95,000 were wounded.

Marching to the front, World War I.

Marching to the front, World War I.

Thirteen Dayton men, Carson reports, received French memorial decorations for their part of the Offensive. All 13 men, including Carson’s great uncle, died in combat.

“I think this group of men needs to be recognized for what they did during their big push in the Meuse Argonne and then their brave dash through Flanders to liberate Belgium and flank the German Army,” Carson says.

“The mystique of these men spoke to me. I thought that perhaps I could write a historical fiction piece that has a western feel at its core, and highlights what these tough and brave soldier did.

“It seems their history is little known. I mean to change that.”

Two Scrapers from the Palouse Indians, a people who lived in the area long, long before The Great War, The Good War, or the Forgotten War. From the private collection of Kevin Carson

Two Scrapers from the Palouse Indians, a people who lived in the area long, long before The Great War, The Good War, or the Forgotten War. From the private collection of Kevin Carson

Highlighting history, and rescuing from obscurity information that remains pertinent today, is a passion with Carson, whose earlier book, History Book Club selection The Long Journey of the Nez Perce, features hand-drawn maps by the author to illustrate battles that many in the area have no idea of happening. With scrupulous attention to research and a painstaking sense of fairness, Carson looks at the “last of the Indian wars” from both sides, telling the story, according to Washington State Magazine, “with immediacy and fascinating analysis.”

The Wild West Boys, Carson explains, is also the result of extensive research and analysis, set in a fictional, yet realistic setting. Composites of actual soldiers that Carson has researched, the characters are drawn from real men with very real lives — such as the George Young cattle rustling gang that menaced Southeast Washington in the late 19th century, and the understaffed lawmen who doggedly pursued them. It was a genuine Western tale, long before John Wayne or Clint Eastwood.

In addition to reading from his book, Carson brings historical and area-based artifacts from his private collection, including World War I photographs, letters and flag, as well as Palouse Indian arrowheads, hide scrapers, a handwoven basket dating from the 1880s, and a frog effigy and paint pot from Celilo. They are all part of the history that makes up our lives today, and which he seeks to keep alive through his books.

“The themes that are interwoven through my stories have a lot to do with the importance of family, and the role of older men in helping shape young men,” Carson says. His work records the timeless story of sacrifice, love, and the limits of courage, because these are subjects that should never be forgotten.

Or, as one of his principal characters  of The Wild West Boys writes,

“I do not believe that the stories of our  lives should die with us.”

Wenaha GalleryKevin Carson is the featured Pacific Northwest Art Event artist from Tuesday, July 5 through Saturday, August 6. Carson, a 1976 Dayton High School grad, will be signing books at the gallery Saturday, July 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. during Dayton’s Alumni Weekend. He will be reading from his new book, The Wild West Boys, at 1 p.m. Photos from World War I will be on display, the sale of which will benefit the Blue Mountain Historical Society of Dayton.

Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional customized framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton, WA.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.

 

One, Two, Three Artists Are a Charm — Caprice Scott (Ceramics), Joyce Wilkens (Author) and Wanda Thompson (Graphite)

porcelain art by caprice scott

Porcelain art by Caprice Scott.

Good things come in threes. Consider this: how many important decisions are made with the simple game, Rock, Paper, Scissors?

There were three wise men, three Bronte sisters, and three muskateers; there are three essential ingredients in the bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich, no recipe necessary.

And for three weeks in June, three Pacific Northwest artists in three completely different mediums, will collaborate on an Art Event at the Wenaha Gallery, Dayton, WA.

Two are from College Place; all three have studied at, or graduated from Walla Walla University. And all three are fervent about what they do: Caprice Scott from College Place creates functional and decorative porcelain; Joyce Wilkens of Spokane is the author of coffee table books; and Wanda Thompson of College Place captures nature’s quiet places in graphite.

Caprice Scott

“God created me to create, and I feel a spiritual connection with Him when I’m working on pottery or sculpture,” says the maker of three-dimensional ware that spans the gamut from vases to lidded boxes, from ceramic fruit to purses in porcelain.

“In creating something I feel is of beauty, I have a tiny idea of who God is and the joy He takes in His creations.”

Scott’s hand-built pottery incorporates images from the natural world , and inspiration derives as well from her three years of living in Europe and traveling the globe to 11 countries. Throughout the seasons, Scott takes regular drives to the Blue and Wallowa Mountains, in search of greenery to press into clay.

teacup art book by joyce wilkens

Teacup Art . . . and Reflections by Joyce Wilkens

“In the Wallowa Lake area, there is a small grove of Aspen trees where I clip some leaves,” Scott explains. “I also look for pine cones. Although I’ve used a lot of things for clay impressions, my go-to and first choice is always something from nature.”

Language, as well, is a driving force in Scott’s art, and she finds various way to incorporate the written word into her work.

“It is beauty in itself, whether in a book, a love letter, or scrawled by a child with a piece of chalk on the sidewalk.”

Joyce Wilkens

While watercolor, oil, wood, and fabric are all mediums in which Wilkens works, books are a focus of her time these days, and her two recently published works are Teacup Art . . . and Reflections and Walking Sticks — Wanderings and Wonderings. The unusual subject matter appeals to a broad audience, and copies of her books reside in the libraries of Conrad Anker, the renowned mountain climber of Everest and K2; Tom Till, one of the nation’s top photographers; artist Guy Buffett; and former President George Bush.

The books, it seems, are as well traveled as their author.

“We spent three months working in Africa in 1985, ” Wilkens says. “That’s when I started up photography.”

That’s also when she and her husband, Keith, started their walking stick collection, which has grown, along with Joyce’s passion for hiking, nature, the beauty of wood, and the stories behind what is made from that wood, all of which fuel Wilkens’ inspiration for her books.

graphite art by wanda thompson

Langs De Stuwepad Dichbij Vilsteren by Wanda Thompson

“On a mission service trip in 1998, I traveled to a very primitive area of southern Madasgascar,” Wilkens remembers.”I took with me a watercolor painting I had done of lemurs in trees. I found a small craft store and asked if someone there could carve me a walking stick with a lemur on it, in exchange for the watercolor painting.”

The deal was struck, a one-of-a-kind walking stick found its way to Wilkens’ home and into her book, and “Madagascar not only has a piece of my art, but also a part of my heart.”

Wanda Thompson

Finding inspiration in nature and the quiet places of Europe, Thompson focuses on peacefulness, and often, on trees.

“I love trees!” Thompson says. “In our home, we have eight tall-to-the-ceiling Ficus trees plus two other large ones.

“But my favorite theme is bare trees because I love the shapes of the bare branches.”

While Thompson’s primary focus is on graphite and watercolor drawing, lately she finds that her camera is becoming a close friend, because she is always keeping her eyes open for unique trees and unusual landscapes to interpret in her studio.

From the highlands and islands of Scotland, to the Dolomites in Italy and Lapland in Finland and Norway, Thompson absorbs nature through hiking and hillwalking, “away from the rush and noise of the world.”

They are three different artists, working in three completely different formats, who all share an appreciation of nature, peacefulness, serenity and form. Come to think of it, that’s a pretty good working definition of art.

Wenaha Gallery’s Triple Play Art Event, featuring Caprice Scott, Joyce Wilkens, and Wanda Thompson, begins May 27 and runs through June 14 at the downtown Dayton, WA gallery, 219 East Main Street. A reception for the artists is scheduled Sunday, June 1 from 1-4 p.m., with all three artists in attendance and refreshments served. Wenaha Gallery

Contact the gallery by phone at 800.755.2124 or e-mail art@wenaha.com. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment. Visit the Wenaha Gallery website online at www.wenaha.com.

Wenaha Gallery,  located in historic downtown Dayton, Washington,  is your destination location for Greenwich Workshop Fine Art Prints, professional framing, and original fine art paintings and sculpture by notable Pacific Northwest artists.   Books, gifts, note cards, jigsaw puzzles, and more are also available. Visit at 219 East Main, Dayton; phone 509.382.2124; e-mail art@wenaha.com.

This article was written by Carolyn Henderson.