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Minnesota National Guard
Art lives on forever

Project to honor vets through art takes shape

Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
Artist Charles Kapsner pointed to details in his painting, one of five large canvas paintings commissioned to depict the nation's military history for the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Camp Ripley Looking on are Dave Swantek (left), cemetery director; Brandon Carr, Consolidated Telecommunications Co art director; Jack Peck, cemetery association president; and Morris Nelson and Paul Nieman, CTC board members

LITTLE FALLS - Artist Charles Kapsner stepped back from the giant canvas with paint brush in hand  
"Until this is here, it's been hard for people to visualize it," she said 

On the canvas soldiers are now taking shape as drawings amid a sepia tone background The Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association commissioned Kapsner of Little Falls to design and create five oil paintings depicting the history of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard

The project aims to hang large canvas paintings, which will be 8 feet by 10 feet, in the committal hall at the cemetery near Camp Ripley and Little Falls

Live models and authentic uniforms from the Continental Army of the nation's birth to its great wars are helping to tell the story of veterans who sacrificed to support freedom and democracy 

A projector helps Kapsner transfer his  drawings from studio sittings to the grid-marked canvas His charcoal outlines of the projected images are then refined with turpentine thinned paint Eventually, the images will take on even greater nuance as vignettes are added and Kapsner makes use of scaffolding to paint 

Once the canvas is complete, the extensive details will undoubtedly take viewers considerable time to absorb The layers of meaning may take several viewings as small details mark significant events over hundreds of years, such as pine boughs marking the pivotal moment of World War II's Battle of the Bulge 

When the project was first announced in 2009, the preliminary sketches gave people a glimpse of what was to come But Kapsner said  for many the project doesn't seem real until the actual work begins to take shape 

Kapsner, long noted for his fresco work, said decades of art experience and extensive research and travel for each military branch is going into the marathon project The son of a World War II veteran, Kapsner has tapped into his own appreciation of history and his family background One of the subjects in his painting is wearing his father's hat and long coat from his military service Kapsner's father was at famed Yalta wartime conference where Winston Churchill, Franklin D Roosevelt and Josef Stalin met and served with the Persian Gulf Command from 1942 to 1945 

The Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association commissioned Kapsner for the project, which is expected to cost $495,000 and take four or five years 
The project is not being funded by public funds or tax dollars Instead tax-deductible donations are being sought from individuals, corporations and veterans organizations Donations are being sought for the project,
Friday, Consolidated Telecommunications Co of Brainerd presented a check for the art project, donating $1,000 a year for five years Board members from CTC, Paul Nieman and Morris Nelson, made the check presentation 

Jack Peck, president of the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association, said his dream is to sell prints of the paintings to help support the cemetery, noting Memorial Day programs alone cost about $6,000 Peck said there is no administration cost for the project  

The Veterans Art Project Fund is administered through the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation Tax-deductible donations are being sought from individuals, corporations and civic organizations

The idea for the art project started with Gordon Gerling, former state representative from Little Falls Gerling, an Air Force veteran, wanted to see a veterans memorial at the site A conversation with Kapsner led to the effort seen today

Kapsner considers each painting to be an allegorical piece, telling a story and using those symbolic figures to examine greater truths

Peck said Dave Swantek, cemetery director, has been instrumental in support of the effort Kapsner is working on the canvas in a maintenance building at the cemetery
Peck, a Navy veteran who served during the Korean War, said the painting details, down to the uniform buttons, are incredible Peck would like to see prints of the paintings in every high school in Minnesota

"Art lives on forever," Peck said "The basic idea is to teach how freedom and democracy were won"

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at reneerichardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852
By Renee Richardson
Senior reporter
Posted: February 18, 2011 - 8:37pm

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