Benner Photos Highlight New Show

War-is-not-healthy.jpgOpening on Sunday, August 27, the latest exhibit at the Ashby-Hodge Gallery of American art will feature a show of photography by one of Central Methodist University’s own, 1966 graduate Jerry Benner. Benner’s work, titled “War Is Not Healthy for Children and Other Living Things – Life in Vietnam,” will be on display alongside a gift collection from the Harco Gallery from August 27 to November 9.

The Benner photos, titled after a poster that is also included in the exhibit, will be on display in the Geist Gallery and feature images from the artist’s deployment in Vietnam. After enlisting in the Army in 1969, Benner was sent to Vietnam the following year to join the 222nd Personnel Service Company at Long Binh Military Post. The company served not on the front lines but in service to the combat soldiers, and Benner lived a “blessed life” in Vietnam compared to some.

“I was a white man who enlisted, with a college degree, three years of professional work, and a wife,” he said, referencing his wife, Ruth, also a ’66 graduate of Central. “I got a good job – in a safe place – met good people and had a positive experience.”

Still, Benner says that the show is “not a patriotic exhibit.” Few of the members of the 222nd had any desire to be in the military or had support for the war by the time the photos were taken.

As for the exhibit itself, the photos tell a story of life in the 222nd, featuring the men at work and at play in the offices and barracks. The pictures are almost entirely in black and white, with the exception of an instance of spot color in the image of comedian Bob Hope’s visit.

“Black and white best describes my feelings about life in the military,” explained Benner. “The real world is in color, as was Bob Hope.”

Another unique aspect of the exhibit is the soundtrack that can be heard while viewing the show – a mixture of music, news, station breaks, and advertisements recorded from the Armed Forces Vietnam Radio Network from 1967 to 1971.

“We’ve never had a show with music before,” said Dr. Joe Geist, registrar of the Gallery. “You need some music to see this show because, believe me, it’s a heavy show.”

In addition to the Benner photos, the fall show will feature a collection of works given to the Gallery last year by Harry B. Cohen of Oro Valley, Ariz. The pieces, now part of the permanent collection, will be on display in the Yancey Gallery.

An In Memoriam exhibit will also be on display in recognition of the friends of the Gallery who passed away in the last year, including artists Joanne Berneche, Sabra Tull Meyer, and Charles Strain, as well as patron Bill Kountz. These pieces can be viewed in Gallery 2 and part of the Yancey Gallery.

The fall show will open with a reception from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, August 27. From then until November 9, the Gallery will be open each Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the same times. Appointments can also be made by calling 660-248-6304 or emailing The Gallery is located on the first floor of Classic Hall on the Fayette campus.

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