During a visit with her family in Michigan, Jessica Halonen came across her father’s military draft records from the Vietnam War where he served as a helicopter mechanic. He never spoke about his experiences in the war, making the discovery as illuminating as it was opaque. Among the official documents from his time there she found: an envelope which contained combat patches; a Christmas card sent from Vietnam to his parents and siblings; and, of particular interest, a tattered, folded sheet of paper containing a sketch of a helicopter. The paper, folded to pocket-size, documented various mechanical parts and commonly used phrases, such as “I’m very busy today,” in English and Vietnamese. Despite its age, the words and diagrams remain remarkably vibrant. The text includes an intriguing combination of blue, black, and red inks, and it is clear multiple people contributed to its content.
Sorry I haven’t written was inspired by the ephemera in her father’s file, and the gallery space in which the works are viewed. The repeating rectangular forms of the pocket-sized note, the Christmas card, the free-standing window-esque wooden grid, as well as the panels on which they are painted, are in dialogue with the windows in the space.
The sculptural elements in the exhibition are made of varied materials including wood, metal-leaf, and blown glass. Halonen’s choice of materials is deliberate, calling to mind the gold embossing on her father’s holiday card and sandbags used for protection during conflict. Glass usually offers an unobstructed view; however, as seen in the sandbags and the surrounding gallery windows, glass can also distort and obscure, reminding us of the more slippery qualities of perspective, memory, and remembrance.
Image Credit: Seale Studio