Past Exhibitions

War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Renewal

Saturday, February 07, 2015 - Saturday, May 23, 2015

War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Renewal is a unique word and image exhibition that combines the poetry of Walt Whitman, the Liljenquist Collection Civil War Portraits from the Library of Congress, and photographs made with both old and very new photographic processes. The exhibition probes the question, "How do Americans remember war?" with soldiers' portraits developed in the flesh of leaves, battlefield landscapes photographed using nineteenth-century technologies, and war poems of intimate reflection.

"The real war will never get in the books," Whitman declared, citing the "interior history" of "the actual soldier of 1862-'65, North and South, with all his ways." Taking on this challenge, photographer Binh Danh and author Robert Schultz have drawn upon Whitman's poetry and prose and striking Civil War portraits, applying nineteenth-century techniques and media to create unique works that meditate upon our nation's conflicts. Merging past and present, War Memoranda evokes the secret, "interior history" of war. The exhibition features two major series' of daguerreotypes by Danh, fifty chlorophyll prints, twenty cyanotypes, three artists' books, and five of Schultz's poems.

War Memoranda seizes upon a remarkable coincidence: as the U.S. Civil War Sesquicentennial observations close, the nation begins to mark the 50th anniversary of America's involvement in the Vietnam War. At the same time, 2015 is the 150th anniversary of Whitman's volume of war poetry, Drum Taps, and the 160th anniversary of his landmark first edition Leaves of Grass. Pursuing intimate history, War Memoranda contemplates American wars and choreographs moments of encounter with our national past and the people who lived it.

War Memoranda was accompanied by the book War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Memorials by Binh Danh and Robert Schultz, published by the Taubman Museum of Art to mark the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth and to bring the poet’s humane example to our moment’s controversies over war, memory, and reconciliation. War Memoranda is a book of art, poetry, and comment that looks at the U.S. Civil War in a new way. The book contains 51 images, including cyanotypes of battlefield memorials by Binh Danh and chlorophyll print portraits of combatants and their loved ones by Robert Schultz. Complementing the art is a generous sampling of Whitman’s wartime poetry and prose, plus guest essays by four distinguished authors–Barbara Bair (Library of Congress historian), Molly Rogers (author of Delia’s Tears), and celebrated poets David Lehman and Stanley Plumly.

About the Artists:

Binh Danh’s work has been included in important exhibitions at museums across the country, as well as in the collections of the Corcoran Art Gallery, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the George Eastman House and the National Gallery of the Art. He has been the recipient of several awards, grants, and artist residencies including the 2011 Copenhaver Scholar-in-Residence, Roanoke College, Virginia, the 2010 Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation, the 2009 Frances Niederer Artist-in-Residence, Hollins University, Virginia, and the 2007 Visions from the New California award from the James Irvine Foundation. Binh Danh received his BFA in Photography from San Jose State University and his MFA in Studio Art from Stanford University. In 2013, he was a featured artist at the 18th Biennale of Sydney in Australia. He is represented by the Haines Gallery in San Francisco and the Lisa Sette Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Robert Schultz is the author of four books and has received a National Endowment For the Arts fellowship, Cornell University’s Corson Bishop Poetry Prize, and from The Virginia Quarterly Review, the Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry. His poems included in War Memoranda have appeared in national literary journals, in anthologies and in textbooks published by Random House and McGraw Hill. His books include two collections of poetry, Vein Along the Fault and Winter in Eden; a novel, The Madhouse Nudes; and a work of nonfiction, We Were Pirates: A Torpedoman’s Pacific War. He holds MFA and PhD degrees from Cornell University and has taught at Cornell, the University of Virginia, and Luther College. Since 2004 he has been the John P. Fishwick Professor of English at Roanoke College in Salem,Virginia. He is represented by Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents in New York.

War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Renewal by Binh Danh and Robert Schultz has been organized by the artists in collaboration with the Taubman Museum of Art and was on display in the Medical Facilities of America Gallery from February 7 through May 23, 2015. Support for the exhibition was provided in part by the City of Roanoke through its Arts Commission.


The customized exhibition War Memoranda: Photography, Walt Whitman, and Memorials was part of the Taubman Museum of Art's Traveling Exhibitions Program, additionally exhibiting at the following venues:

Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York: August 20 – October 16, 2016

Phillips Museum of Art, Lancaster, Pennsylvania: September 4 – December 9, 2018


(Left to right)

Binh Danh, US soldier (green man), 2008, Chlorophyll print and resin, Courtesy of the Artist

Binh Danh and Robert Schultz, Girl in mourning, with photograph, 2012, Chlorophyll print and resin, Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Courtesy of the Artists

Exhibition installation photography by Jeff Hofmann