Operation Mom's Couch



of an Exhibit

by Kristen Vogt

Published on March 22, 2016

  • Description:

    Operation Mom’s Couch is an exhibit of reflective artwork by artist and veteran, Eric Garcia, showcased at the National Veteran’s Art Museum in Chicago. Opening on February 26th, 2016, this solo show focuses on the experience and reflections of Garcia as he grows up in the American Southwest, inundated by images of heroism and American patriotism, and eventually finds himself serving in the American armed forces during different tours of combat in both Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.

    Unlike other exhibits showcased at the NVAM, Garcia’s exhibit and artwork dominate the walls and space in the two rooms in which they are displayed. Using only the selected color of olive green (the same color, coincidentally, as the plastic army men he used to play with as a child), the drawn artwork on the wall sometimes reflects his Mexican heritage, recalling the murals seen on Mayan and Aztec temples, using Uncle Sam as a stand in for an angry god accepting a human sacrifice. Other times, the drawings on the exhibit wall are comical, showing the young, round-cheeked Garcia playing video games and horsing around on his mother’s couch, dressed up as various soldier heroes that he found himself drawn to as a child, ranging from a masked Zorro to an ironic Davy Crockett, fending off Santa Anna at the Alamo. This draws us to the evolution on the wall as Garcia grows up, and finds himself enlisting in the United States Air Force. Here, the images of Garcia are different; the chubby cheeked child is now a scared young man, and once again, the omnipresent Uncle Sam is demanding sacrifice like an angry Xibalba, taking it in the form of Garcia’s hair and individual identity as he joins the Armed Forces.

    Throughout this piece on the walls, Garcia tells the story of how the United States Armed Forces often focuses its drawing power to the poor and the uneducated through ongoing propaganda. As a young Hispanic American boy, Garcia loved the idea of being a hero to everyone, echoing the ideals of shows such as ‘GI Joe’ and the plastic army men he and his brother played with. As he grew up, he was still drawn to the Armed Forces, but this time, as a monetary incentive. This, Garcia points out, is a common incentive to the Armed Forces that often attracts the young American poor: that, by enlistment, they will receive both monetary security, as well as patriotic glory.

    In the middle of this exhibit, sits a nest of guns. Garcia mentions that this nest has two definitions towards it: both the nest of the comfort of his mother’s house and couch, and the ‘machine gun’ nests that are built in order to create defense units within modern armed conflict. The guns are crudely manufactured, showcasing the quickness that a machine gun nest is required in order to be built. The machine guns are also constructed of bare wood, showing the nakedness that often accompanies a vulnerable position that happens to soldiers in modern warfare. Finally, many of the guns within this nest have various conflicts written on them, including ones that are often ignored or forgotten by the American public, such as the Kosovo or Lebanon wars that have happened in the last 20th century. This was made to show that, even though the conflicts may have been small in the eyes of the American public, these wars still required sacrifice by American troops and their allies.

    ‘Operation Mom’s Couch’ does an excellent job of showcasing an artistic interpretation of constant glorification of war and the ideal of the American soldier, to an impressionable young man’s experience and the final conclusive story of a veteran. It is done so in a way that is not only easily interpreted by a visitor who does not read (and perhaps, not even speak), English, but also in a way that conveys heritage, cultural acknowledgement, and sacrifice for country.

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