Reflection Through Art: The Vietnam War

White walls were filled with photos of people and machines. Another room displayed a video of a war-torn country. This was the setting of UMKC Gallery of Art’s most recent exhibition “ImagesFLASH: Looking Back at the Vietnam War”.

The exhibit came to a close on Feb. 24 but the photos captured will last forever. “ImagesFLASH” showcased two separate experiences of war in two mediums: photo and video.

Poppy Di Candelero is a curator of the exhibit and feels a calling to showcase the work of Vietnam veterans in any way possible.

“When they came back from Vietnam, they didn’t talk about their experience,” said Di Candelero.  “It’s through the photographs and the writing that gives them a way of talking about the war.”

The photographs of James H. Rifenbark drift away from the horrors of the war and instead reflect on humanity, humor and perseverance. They line the front room with images of a dog, a helicopter, self-portraits and even a humorous photo of another photography.

Through Rifenbark’s photos, a life message is captured. These people were fighting a war but very much still living a life they made the best of.

Diana Heise compiled video footage her uncle captured during the war, where he had been a helicopter gunner. He would often have a gun in one hand and his camera in the other. In doing this, she came up with a work that looks deeper into the effects of war and violence upon both the individual and the country.

The video entitled “September-December 1996” is a 7-minute film that debuted at the exhibit. It consists of a collage of photos of Heise’s uncle as it flips through different sets. In the background is Heise’s aunt reading aloud letters that were written during the war. The piece is an example of the struggle soldiers faced between humanity, war, love and death.

Di Candelero does a lot of work with the Command and General Staff College, which is why she felt a responsibility to bring a Vietnam War exhibit to campus. The UMKC Gallery of Art showcases a wide variety of exhibitions throughout the year. Make sure to take advantage of all the wonderful visual opportunities that exist on campus.

View past and future exhibition lineups at

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