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Traveling Art Exhibit in Library, “Always Lost: A Meditation on War"

Traveling Art Exhibit in Library, “Always Lost: A Meditation on War"

Alfred State College will host a traveling art exhibit, “Always Lost: A Meditation on War,” Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, through the end of the semester, in the Hinkle Memorial Library gallery. Hours are Monday - Thursday 7:30 a.m. - 11 p.m., Friday 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m., Saturday 1 - 7 p.m., and Sunday 1 - 11 p.m. The show is open to the public free of charge.

The birth of the exhibit began in fall 2008, when Western Nevada College sociology Professor Don Carlson was stopped in his tracks by The New York Times’ Roster of the Dead. “Four thousand faces of American military who had perished in Iraq stared at me,” he said, “and I realized that this war has been perhaps one of the most impersonal wars ever fought.”

He approached English Professor Marilee Swirczek and they envisioned an exhibit that would personalize the wars—Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom—through poems, prose, and photographs. Retired Marine Major and English instructor Kevin Burns selected the name for the exhibit from an observation by American writer Gertrude Stein: “War is never fatal but always lost. Always lost.”

The heart of Always Lost is the Wall of the Dead: individual photographs with names of the more than 6,200 US military war casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Always Lost is committed to keeping the memorial wall current in honor of those who gave their lives and those who made it home.

Always Lost includes the 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning Iraq War combat photos of David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer (courtesy of The Dallas Morning News) with literary work by Professor Swirczek’s creative writing classes, veterans and their families, the Lone Mountain Writers Group, and other northern Nevada writers. Three Western Nevada College student-veterans are profiled through photographs and interviews to represent the thousands of men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The poetry of SPC

Noah Pierce, who took his own life after returning from two combat tours in Iraq, represents those casualties.

Installed at Western Nevada College Carson City in spring 2009, the original exhibit generated an overwhelming response. One guest book comment read, “A national treasure.” By word-of-mouth, the story of Always Lost began to spread, and inquiries came from across the country. The Nevada Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts, awarded WNC a grant to support the project and reformat it as a traveling exhibit. Always Lost made its national debut at the University of Wisconsin-Marinette in fall 2010 and is scheduled to tour other venues through mid-2013. WNC dreams of sending Always Lost to all 50 states.

In spring 2011, US Senators Harry Reid and Dean Heller jointly expressed support of the project and invited the exhibition to Washington, DC. A generous donation by a longtime local business, the Carson Nugget, through its Community First initiative, made it possible to replicate the exhibition for our nation’s capital.

Always Lost has evolved into a powerful meditation on the effects of war on each of us. It has become a sacred space in which to contemplate the personal costs and collective sacrifice of these particular conflicts, and consequently, of all wars. In the meantime, casualties continue to mount, and the Wall of the Dead continues to grow.

For additional information, contact Amy Roby, Project Manager, phone (775) 445-4243 or e-mail; or Professor Marilee Swirczek, phone (775) 445-4284 or e-mail

To make a financial contribution to the traveling exhibit, contact the Western Nevada College Foundation at (775) 445-3240 or Funded in part by Western Nevada College; Carson Nugget/Community First; Nevada Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts; Nevada Humanities; and other organizations and individuals.