About the War Letters Project
"Essie"; collage and acrylic on board; 45"H X 30"W
The WAR LETTERS PROJECT was begun in 2007 after rediscovering the old letters in a collection of my Grandmother’s things, saved in an old tin box. Essie Smith (née Sann) lived on a farm not far from Beamsville Ontario and corresponded with many of the young men from her rural community during both World Wars, sending them encouragement through parcels and letters. The soldiers, stationed overseas, wrote back to her and she saved many of the letters that she felt were particularly significant.
These old letters fascinated and intrigued me because they offered a glimpse of wartime experiences—understated comments of the human condition that are not only publicly significant, but privately meaningful. As a woman and an artist who has never experienced war, these letters evoked powerful emotions in me. I felt compelled to honour the words found in the letters by integrating parts of them into new types of communications.
Beginning with documentation of all the original letters, I began to use elements from them in mixed media pieces, prints and assemblages to build narratives that provoked memories and encouraged closer scrutiny.
The wartime letters represent a link between the women at home and the men overseas during both World Wars. Letters, parcels, and other ephemera are a part of this history, as are certain locales. By bringing these components together in assemblages and textile pieces, I present a different commentary for the viewer to read, one that sometimes expresses pain and suffering, but most often hope.
“The War Letters Project” is about that history.