Kurt Vonnegut is mainly known as the acerbically witty satirist behind such classics as "Slaughterhouse Five" and "Breakfast of Champions," but he was also an artist.
The World War II veteran, who witnessed the infamous Dresden fire-bombing in Germany, didn't just create timeless characters on the page like the shambolic science fiction author Kilgore Trout or the crazed car salesman Dwayne Hoover. He was also a lover of the visual arts who drew, and not just illustrations for his books.
His artwork is on display as part of the Vonnegut's Odyssey exhibit at the National Veterans Art Museum at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. in the Portage Park neighborhood on Chicago's Northwest Side. The free exhibit is on display through May 6.
"The experience of returning home and processing the effects of war is something that is shared by all veterans, from the time of Homer’s 'The Odyssey,' through Vonnegut’s experiences in Dresden, and continuing on today," exhibit curator and Iraq veteran Ash Kyrie said. "Exhibiting the artwork of Vonnegut as an illustration of the post-war experience and as a creative processing tool for the artist highlights the process of the return and the complexity of the veteran experience."
Before he became one of the best known authors to emerge from Indiana, Vonnegut, an Indianapolis native who briefly attended the University of Chicago, was a Purple Heart recipient and a prisoner of war who was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. In addition to writing 14 novels, he was a prolific drawer and who sometimes collaborated with a printer to make colorful posters of his sketches.
Like his writing, much of his drawing focused on his wartime experiences.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled for this opportunity to embolden the dialogue surrounding our veterans and the timeless intersection of war and art," said Brendan Foster, National Veterans Art Museum executive director. "Vonnegut’s artwork in this exhibit provides a rich expression that puts the veteran experience at the forefront of public discourse.”
The museum, which is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and free to the public, also is showing an exhibit about Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried" and a Vietnam War Memorial with 58,307 dog tags hanging overhead.
For more information, visit http://www.nvam.org/.