Art Type: Mural
Location: Inside VFW Post 5220 | 9514 S 52nd Ave, Oak Lawn, IL
Author: Linda Vorderer
Visitors to VFW Post 5220 are greeted by a mural that extends over an entire wall giving a voice to all the foreign military engagements* our country has been involved with since the United States’ inception. It is also an ongoing work of art for as long as the U.S. Armed Forces are engaged on foreign soil.
The original image was created by Nicholas (Bill) Hewitt, a 70-year Oak Lawn resident who served in the US Navy during World War II, the South Pacific War, and the Guadalcanal Campaign. Bill started this work by gluing travel posters to the wall. Then, using paint, he added forms and buildings from a skewed perspective. My artist’s eye sees an expression of the chaos of war with an appearance of careful disorganization in these images. The neon-painted words add to the chaotic yet expressive mural while still giving recognition to the foreign conflicts that engaged the US Armed Services. The black-light paint recalls the Vietnam War era style from the 1960s when black-light posters were popular, and the war was reported daily in our news.
As a part of the “Art in Oak Lawn” collection, the style of this mural could be an example of ‘Outsider Art.’ Formerly known as ‘Naïve Art,’ this type of art is made by people who are not schooled in the arts, identify themselves as artists, and do not wish to sell their work. It is often more expressive than art intended as ‘high art,’ and fills an important need to deeply visually express and communicate significant ideas. In this case, the work ensures that US foreign conflicts and the soldiers who fought in them are always remembered. The entire collection tells the story of the long-standing dedication of the brothers and sisters who served in these wars across the globe and over many years.
Other contributors were: Rick Luemenn (US Army, Vietnam War, 1966-67) added some lettering and names of conflicts, and inserted the famous ‘Kilroy’ cartoon from WWII; and, Roy Johnson (US Navy, Vietnam War) who helped with this history.
*The American Revolutionary and Civil Wars are not included since those were not fought on foreign soil.