Episcopal teacher’s wartime experience subject of Cummer exhibit
Episcopal School of Jacksonville teacher, Richard Chamberlain served the United States during the Vietnam War. His experiences there inspired an eerie, but powerful artwork that is now on display at the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Riverside.
Called Richard Chamberlain: The Year of the Sheep, the exhibition will be on display in the museum’s Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Milner Gallery through July 8. Chamberlain’s exhibit is featured in conjunction with Jacksonville’s Cultural Fusion initiative and its theme, “The Things They Carried,” based on the collection of stories by Tim O’Brien about a platoon of soldiers during the Vietnam War.
The Year of the Sheep marks the year on the Chinese calendar that Chamberlain spent in Vietnam as a demolitions expert “blowing things up.” Three themes are represented: the Hill Series, where Chamberlain’s struggle with black and white, both figuratively and literally began; the Tree Line Series where perspective and nature’s role in the War are explored; and the Cave Series where the catharsis is most palpable. In total, 22 works are represented, from snapshot size to window
“Where I started with the Hill Series, I truly was just putting brush to paper (the first works were on brown kraft paper chosen for its neutrality and temporariness) and my guttural black-and-white/good-and-evil naivety is starkly obvious,” Chamberlain explained. “From there the lines started to blur in the paintings just as my experiences during the War muddied my understanding of good and evil and right and wrong.”
Richard Chamberlain was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder some 20 years after his tour in Vietnam in 1967. At the time, bouts of depression and isolation were hindering his growing success as a painter of still life with exhibitions in New York City galleries. Finding it hard to articulate his feelings, Chamberlain took the advice of his therapist to express feelings of anxiety and alienation through his art. So began the Year of the Sheep series.