Travels in Ithaca: New Paintings by Scott Gleeson – an Introduction


This posting on the exhibition, Travels in Ithaca: New Paintings by Scott Gleeson, which opened in the Hawn Gallery of the Hamon Arts Library on January 25th, is the first of several postings by the artist. This posting presents a summary of the exhibition. This and future postings are intended as a series of dialogs between the artist and the community viewing and reading about the exhibition, and the artist invites comments from readers.

Travels in Ithaca: New Paintings by Scott Gleeson is on view through May 16th, and the Gallery is accessible during the Library’s open hours (Hamon calendar).


After over a decade of warfare, American soldiers face many challenges upon returning home from

the battlefield which exacerbate or trigger traumatic stress injuries sustained in combat, including limited access to the veteran health care system or benefits, or financial or career difficulties, substance abuse, affordable housing, or relationship problems. Although most traumatic wounds are treatable, many veterans opt not to seek treatment due to the stigma of diagnosis, perpetuated by media stereotypes and military culture. The Travels in Ithaca exhibition seeks to empower veterans and to celebrate the ways in which communities respond to meet the needs of returning veterans.

The history of abstract art offers a convenient point of departure for this journey: throughout the 20th Century, abstraction, as a new form of image making, was associated with ideas of social progress, democracy, or even revolution. Basic formal elements like lines, planes, and colors assumed spiritual or symbolic significance as the building blocks of new societies. The works in this exhibition, while acknowledging historical avant-garde movements, promote a more modest, pragmatic goal, to facilitate memory of the social cost of war and collective healing from war’s traumatic wounds.

Inspired by psychoanalyst Francine Shapiro’s pioneering contributions to combat trauma therapy, Travels in Ithaca reflects the visual logic of the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy method, a top recommended trauma treatment. The paintings fall into three main groups: EMDR Visual Aids, installations which create intricate visual circuits; Bilateral Stimulation Units, which establish a visual field for the performance of healing left-right eye movements thought to help relocated troubling cognitions in the correct centers of the brain; and Cognitions, images featuring planar color fields. To further locate the series within the context of homecoming, each work reimagines scenes from the life and death of Odysseus, including the hero’s year long sojourn with the sorceress Circe, his passage between the perils of Scylla and Charybdis, and the fatal battle with his illegitimate son Telegonus.

Preliminary research for this body of work was supported in part by The Idea Fund, a Texas re-granting initiative of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

More about Scott Gleeson.

Featured image:

The Suitors of Ithaca (Bilateral Stimulation Unit), 2016
Oil on canvas
72 x 96 inches

Now on display in the Mildred Hawn Exhibition Gallery.

Thanks to Scott Gleeson for this guest blogpost!

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