STAMFORD Advocate – Artist offers new way to look back at WWII

STAMFORD — No one in her family has served in the military, but photographer Rose DeSiano has been entrenched in war for four years.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., resident has been working on a series of tapestries that essentially are her “re-enactment of re-enactments” of scenes from World War II and the Vietnam War. The vividly descriptive “War Tapestries” — on room-sized jacquard weaves — are on display at the University of Connecticut Stamford Art Gallery through Dec. 22.

“The entire body of work is three-pronged,” she said, “and part of what I’m looking at is the way we visualize and re-create mythologies of American culture. My background is in photography and I’m fascinated by how much of world history or American history we know or don’t know accurately through photographs.”

DeSiano received a master of fine arts degree from the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles and a bachelor of fine arts from New York University’s Tisch School of Arts. She is an associate professor of photography at Kutztown University in Pennsylvania.

About her work, she added, “I’m looking at the way in which cameras recorded those scenes — optics changed, cameras changed — so we the way we saw the war changed. So I’ve always been interested in that dialogue between how we remember something having a lot to do with how they were recorded at the time and how photo history drives a lot of our understanding of history.”

UConn Stamford Art Gallery, Broad Street Concourse or Washington Boulevard, is open Monday through Thursday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, visit www.artgallery.stamford.uconn.edu or call 203-251-8450.

Her concentration on the war tapestries began innocently enough. She was engaged in an artist-in-residency program in Wyoming and photographed a re-enactment of Custard’s Last Stand. After she developed the images, she left them on her desk at Kutztown University not sure what she would do with them. One day, the facilities director saw them and invited her to see a World War II re-enactment in which he was involved.

After pre-dawn drive to Fort Indian Gap in Pennsylvania, DeSiano witnessed 200 to 300 men dressed up in period uniforms, some of them as Nazi officers, re-enacting the Battle of the Bulge. She rode in a motorcycle sidecar as she toured the field at the event, which involved at least 1,000 people.

DeSiano didn’t do anything with those images for three years, but she wondered about the myth and glorification of war, which led her to examine how it has been represented through visual arts. She needed to see more. With the attention to detail and accuracy paramount to the re-enacters, she said, she wasn’t allowed to photograph as an outsider, so she dressed as a man in period costume and took the role of war correspondent.

“As I started pursuing this and wanted to see more and more what was happening at these events — there’s a great pageantry to it and I wanted to see that and photograph that — I had to go dressed,” she said of participating in some of the re-enactments.