Aaron Hughes / Artist’s Now lecture
Wednesday, October 13th
Free and open to the public
Photo: of "Operation First Casualty" a performance in Chicago.
Aaron Hughes is an artist, an Iraq War veteran, and a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW.) He was a student at the University of Illinois-Urbana when his National Guard unit, the 1244th Transportation Company Army National Guard, was called to active duty on January 30, 2003.
Three months later, his Company was deployed to Kuwait. There he supported combat operations by transporting supplies from camps and ports in Kuwait to camps in Iraq. After three deployment extensions, totaling fifteen months, his Company was redeployed back to Illinois.
Hughes returned to the University of Illinois in the spring of 2005 and became a painting major. Photos that he took in Iraq served as the basis for many of his paintings. At U of I and in graduate art school at Northwestern University he expanded his mediums to performance, video, book arts, and collage. Much of the work was about trying to make sense of his war experience.
In 2006, Hughes joined Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a national membership organization consisting of veterans and active duty service members who have served in the US military since September 11, 2001. IVAW currently has a membership of over 1,700 people spread throughout the 50 states as well as Canada, Europe, and Iraq, and has 61 active chapters, including six on military bases.
Presently, Aaron is an organizing team leader for IVAW and spends much of the year traveling around the country to meet with various IVAW chapters, organized labor, and other groups committed to ending the wars in the Middle East.
Aaron’s influence on IVAW’s tactics has been substantial, especially his ideas on how to merge art with activism. He helped organize Operation First Casualty – a street theater action by IVAW members where veterans re-enact their combat patrol experiences in US cities. He also has introduced street art techniques (mud stencil actions) and a host of other creative methods to help “bring the war home” and focus much needed public attention on GI rights, Post Dramatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and stopping the re-deployment of soldiers with traumatic injuries.