The De Smet News

Combat artists visit De Smet

Combat artists visit De Smet

The Harvey Dunn Society hosted a free art show last weekend at the De Smet Event & Wellness Center featuring five artists who are no strangers to the De Smet community.

The works of Galen Wallum, Julie Waldner, Charlene Fleming, James Pollock and Stephen Randall were displayed from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon.

Randall took part in a panel discussion on combat art and war experiences at 7 p.m. Saturday during the art show, along with fellow artists Pollock and Wallum.

Randall, a board member of the Harvey Dunn Society, graduated from Iowa State University with a master’s degree in architecture and is a retired city engineer from Sioux Falls.

He remembers drawing cars as a child, attempting to copy the latest Ford and Chevy tail fins and mud flaps. By the time Randall was a teen, his parents enrolled him in a summer outdoor drawing class at the Des Moines Art Center.

He served in the Army as a draftsman and with a military police brigade in Germany.

Following the early 1968 Tet Offensive (one of the largest military campaigns of the Vietnam War), Randall expected to be sent to Vietnam.

He had heard about the army combat artist program and decided to apply for a spot on one of their teams. Randall sent samples of his work and was selected and assigned to a headquarters unit outside Saigon, Vietnam.

He was sent to a number of units on missions in Vietnam, from Da Nang in the north to south of Saigon.

Randall’s Vietnam sketches were done in felt pen, acrylic, and oil pastel. Later, at a studio in Hawaii, he completed a number of batik paintings for the program, created by using a resist method of painting wax and dye on fabric in layers, removing the wax to finish.

He explained that the military needs artists as well as photographers to visually record the people, places and events of a particular conflict. “I think photographers can capture a moment in time that tells a compelling story. I think an artist could pull that same moment from their mind and paint, as Paul Harvey might say, ‘The rest of the story,’” Randall said.

The Army currently keeps its art collection, including Randall’s paintings, in a warehouse when they are not part of a traveling exhibit. There are plans to construct a museum by 2019, and Randall said that he hopes the curator will include some of his work.

He shared that his time in the military brought him to understand and appreciate the service and personal sacrifice of men and women in the line of duty. “I think that experience has helped me over the years in the workplace — to respect the roles and opinions of others,” he said.

After returning from Vietnam, Randall put away his paintbrushes and focused on his family of four and his career as an architect and urban planner in Sioux Falls.

In 2003, his wife, Euny, encouraged Randall to start painting again by enrolling him in a plein air painting class as a birthday present. “I’ve been painting up a storm ever since,” he said.

Since his retirement in 2013, Randall’s favorite pastime is painting sunsets outdoors with his grandchildren.

Although most of Randall’s painting inventory is currently on exhibit in art shows throughout Sioux Falls, this weekend he plans to display prints of some of his paintings that have sold, as well as a portion of his Vietnam combat art.

A collection of Randall’s paintings, including a self-portrait, can be viewed through November at the downtown Siouxland Library in Sioux Falls.

Posted on 11-08-2017

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