‘Always Lost: A Meditation on War’ at Boulder City Library

Always Lost: A Meditation on War Exhibit in Boulder City, NevadaThe Boulder City Library installed an exhibit last week that is … well, amazing.  And sad.  And thought-provoking.  And a lot of things that make it worth going to see while it’s in town through March 11th (2016).

“Always Lost: A Meditation on War” is a nationally touring art and humanities exhibit whose heart is the Wall of the Dead, individual faces and names of U.S. military war personnel who perished in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since September 11th, 2001.

As some images are a bit more graphic, Boulder City Library Director Lynn Schofield-Dahl has split the exhibit into two separate rooms – the general conference room has the less graphic material and the Nevada Room has images that might not be suitable for everyone so if you do wish to see the exhibit in its entirety, you’ll want to make sure you visit both rooms.

The Boulder City Library is the thirteenth and final venue on the 2014-2016 Nevada tour of “Always Lost,” sponsored by the Nevada Department of Veterans Services (NDVS) as part of the state’s Sesquicentennial Celebration. I’ve copied additional information from their press release below for you (in italics)…

Library Director Lynn Schofield-Dahl said, “The Boulder City Library is excited to host the “Always Lost” exhibit for our community and the Clark County, Nevada area. So many soldiers have retired to this area; we feel a special bond with our service men and women.”

Along with the exhibition’s poignant memorial wall, “Always Lost” brings home the individual and collective costs of war through original poetry by Nevada writers; the 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning Iraq War combat photograph collection, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News; photographic portraits and interviews of Western Nevada College (WNC) student veterans who represent the thousands of service members returning home from the wars; and the profile and poetry of Army SPC Noah C. Pierce, who took his own life after serving two tours in Iraq. Observations about the nature of war from ancient philosophers to modern-day generals provoke reflection about our obligations to those who serve in harm’s way on our behalf.

“Always Lost” began as a class project at Western Nevada College-Carson City. After viewing the New York Times’ Roster of the Dead in 2008, sociology professor Don Carlson observed that the Iraq War was “perhaps the most impersonal war the U.S. has ever fought.” He and English professor Marilee Swirczek envisioned a literary and visual arts exhibition to bring home the costs of war. Retired Marine Major Kevin Burns, a student in the class and currently WNC’s Veterans Resource Center coordinator, titled the exhibition after an observation by American writer Gertrude Stein: “War is never fatal but always lost. Always Lost.”

In 2009, “Always Lost: A Meditation on War” was installed at WNC for three months as a student art show, but it captured the nation’s attention and has brought a message of awareness and unity to more than 50 communities across the U.S. since 2010. U.S. Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller signed a 2011 Congressional letter in support of “Always Lost” and have presented the exhibit with letters of commendation. The Daughters of the American Revolution, John C. Fremont Chapter, recognized Swirczek’s stewardship of the exhibition with their 2012 Medal of Honor for Patriotism.

“Always Lost” has received congressional recognition from U.S. Congressman Mark Amodei and official proclamations from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval; the Carson City, Nevada, Board of Supervisors; and the Washoe County, Nevada, Board of County Commissioners. “Always Lost” was selected as an official Nevada 150 Sesquicentennial exhibit by the NV150 Commission.

Called “a national treasure” by viewers, “Always Lost: A Meditation on War” offers a sacred space for viewers to contemplate the effects of war on each of us. One comment written in the guest book that travels with “Always Lost” reads: “You could not possibly leave this exhibition the same person you were when you walked in.”

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