When Southwest Minneapolis artist Camille Gage looks at the world today, she despairs a little.
“Young people seem to think war is the background noise of life and turn the other cheek,” she said. “Somehow, we've gotten to a place where peace is for chumps. I don’t think that’s an acceptable answer.”
Gage's oevre is big and broad—perhaps her best-known work is an oversized kimono, held by the Weisman Museum, inspired by her mother’s passing that seems to alternately float away or build up from a blizzard of feathers. She places art for the sake of peace among her core subjects. Her main aim, she said, is to bear witness to the costs of war abroad and of violence in people’s daily lives.
“This becomes part of the historical record about war,” she said of her work.
In one of her most recent works, called “War, Redacted,” she used previously suppressed photos of American soldiers, who died in Iraq, arriving at Dover Air Force Base. In her retouching, Gage blacked out the transfer cases holding the bodies. The effect was to memorialize the Amercan government's efforts to blunt the impact of these casualties.
Gage and fellow artist Susanne Slavick, along with three visiting Iraqi women artists, will present a workshop at this weekend’s Nobel Peace Prize Forum on how artists can bear witness to the cost of war.
But can art that is “part of the historical record,” as Gage hopes, also reach the masses? While she exhibits in galleries, Gage also strives to place larger shows, such as “War, Redacted,” at venues such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art, where they can reach broadly.
“It’s a difficult conundrum when you think that your art is only being seen by a small slice of society,” Gage said.