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Published: Aug 2, 2005
Art and war's aftermath

In 1995, Hunter Levinsohn was immersed in war.

She wanted to create an art piece to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. This desire heightened her lifelong quest to learn more about her uncle, Pope Lott Browne, a soldier who died during World War II.

Levinsohn knew Browne had survived the infamous Bataan death march only to die when a Japanese ship transporting POWs from the Philippines to Japan was attacked on Oct. 24, 1944.

“There were 1,806 POWs in the hold of the ship. Of those I think ultimately five survived. My uncle was not one of them,” Levinsohn said.

On display

-- On Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Chapel Hill Public Library, an information session will be for county artists interested in applying for the 2005-06 Emerging Artists Grants from the Durham Arts Council. For grant information, call 560-2719 or go to

-- Branch Gallery, 205 W. Weaver St., Carrboro, opens a show of posters, prints and collage by Ron Liberti on Aug. 12. Reception 6-9 p.m. 918-1116.

-- The Carrboro Sunday Arts and Crafts Market is Aug. 14 and 28 from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Carrboro Town Commons. Artists interested in selling their work should call 929-3986 or 968-6152.

-- Watercolors by Margret Mueller are on display at the N.C. Botanical Garden’s Totten Center.

-- Acrylic and mixed-media paintings by Joan VanderMeer are on display at Crooks Corner, 610 W. Franklin St..

-- Through Sept. 18, an exhibit of mixed media by Erik Neimi is at Panzanella restaurant in Carrboro’s Carr Mill Mall. Meet-the-artist reception Aug. 8 from 4:30 to 6:30. After Art Walk Party from 9 to 11 p.m. on Aug. 12.

-- Irina Avetangi, who is visiting from St. Petersburg, Russia, is showing her oil and watercolor paintings at the Carrboro Town Hall through Friday. “Fragments,” photographs by B. Jean Oline, goes on display next. 942-8541.

-- Somerhill Gallery’s current exhibit, “Gardens & Vistas,” with works by 20 artists, ends Aug. 18. On Aug. 21, a reception from 2 to 5 p.m. opens “The Big Picture,” an exhibit of large-scale photography. 3 Eastgate. 968-8868.

-- “Brushes with Life: Art, Artists & Mental Illness,” works by STEP Gallery Artists, is at the Carrboro Branch Library. The library is in the McDougle Schools Media Center, 900 Old Fayetteville Road, Carrboro. 969-3006.

-- Nested, 118 E. Main St., Carrboro, is featuring puppets and plates created by Marcela Slade. Reception Aug. 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. 338-8023.

-- “Mornings with Jane,” works by 15 of Jane Filer’s students (plus a work by Filer), are on display at the Carrboro Century Center through August. The center is at 100 N. Greensboro St. 918-7385.

-- The STEP art gallery, Brushes With Life: Art, Artists & Mental Illness is featuring work by 42 artists. The gallery is on the third floor of the UNC Neuroscience Hospital. For information, call 966-0011 or e-mail

-- An exhibit of paintings by Rani Imandi and photographs by Julia Lebetkin is at the Chapel Hill Public Library through Aug. 15. The library is at 100 Library Drive. 968-2777.

-- “Flights of Fancy,” an origami paper display created by Theo Cokkinos, is on display at Paisley & Co. through Aug. 29. In Southern Village at 610 Market St. 967-9309.

-- The Horace Williams House reopens its doors on Aug. 21 with a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. for a show of new paintings by David Connell. 610 E. Rosemary St. 942-7818.

-- Carrburritos, 711 W. Rosemary St., is showing “Instant Carrboro,” a show of Polaroids by Todd E. Gaul. 933-8226.

-- Fuse, at 403 W. Rosemary St., is exhibiting sculpture and paintings by the Dixon family through August. 942-9242.

-- The Chapel Hill Museum, 523 E. Franklin St., is exhibiting “Luther H. Hodges: The International Legacy of a North Carolina Statesman” through Oct. 23. 967-1400.

-- The Women’s Health Information Center art gallery, 101 Manning Drive, on the ground floor of N.C. Women’s Hospital, is showing “Southern Spaces,” acrylic paintings by Melissa Miller that feature North Carolina landscapes. 843-1759.

-- Turning Point Gallery, University Mall, is featuring mixed media work by Marta Wiley Aug. 12-30. Reception Aug. 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. 967-0402.

-- On Saturday, the Carrboro ArtsCenter opens a multi-media installation piece, “Cultivating the Empty Garden,” by Tori Ralston. Artist’s reception Aug. 12 from 6 to 9 p.m. 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro. 929-2787.

-- The N.C. Crafts Gallery, 212 W. Main St. in Carrboro, is showing pots by John Svara. Opening reception to meet Svara will be Sunday from 1 to 3 p.m. 942-4048.

-- “Sour Stomachs & Galloping Headaches, Treating the Sick in North Carolina, 1500s-1900s” is on display at UNC’s Wilson Library in the N.C. Collection Gallery. 962-1172.

Levinsohn requested her uncle’s personnel records from the U.S. government, read everything she could get her hands on about Hiroshima and Bataan, and wrote letters to people she knew who might have memories of those times.

“I asked my mother to ask her friends about their reactions to the Hiroshima bombing,” she said. “I got a wonderful letter from one of their husbands, an Australian man, who shared his recollections. He was stationed outside of Hiroshima after the war.”

The resulting art exhibit is at the Chapel Hill Senior Center through Sept. 22. “Looking Through Time’s Window” is a multi-media installation that explores Browne’s death and the Hiroshima bombing.

“One event was major to my family and the other was major in the world,” Levinsohn said.

We are not only meant to be touched by the exhibit, but we are meant to touch it, interact with it, think about it and let Levinsohn know the response to it.

Levinsohn seems to have awakened history. A woman came up to her at the senior center and told her that seeing the exhibit called up the memory of being able to take the tape off the windows of her city home when the war ended.

The exhibit includes a rug, a desk and several hung works of art. When I saw it, I felt like I was in the study of a young man who is perhaps outside smoking a cigarette, gazing at the stars, wondering what lies ahead.

Levinsohn painted the display’s rug — it is a map of Hiroshima’s harbor marking ground zero where the bomb went off. On the desktop is a collage Levinsohn made. The books and articles that she used in her research sit atop the desk, including the report on her uncle that she finally received months after she requested it.

A book asking for viewers’ comments is displayed along with a journal in which Levinsohn kept notes and made sketches during her research. It’s the artistic process laid bare. The artworks on the wall are collage paintings on masonite panels. Some have doors one can lift to read information Levinsohn collected.

This work originally was exhibited in 1997 at the Modern Museum, an alternative art space in Durham that no longer exists. I first saw it four years ago in Levinsohn’s home. It is an awesome experience to explore the room. While the details it shares are specific to World War II, it could be any war. Uncle Honey, as Browne’s family called him, could be anyone’s father, son or husband. The distant past is right before us.

Levinsohn’s mother, who lives in Charleston, S.C., was not a fountain of information for Levinsohn’s research endeavors. Then in her 80s, details of her brother and the war had dramatically faded.

“She did come to Chapel Hill for the opening but told me she couldn’t attend,” Levinsohn said. “I think when you have someone lost that way, there is never any closure. It was such a tragedy for her entire family. I think it would have brought back too many memories. But I think she’s proud of what I’ve done.”

During the initial display, a friend of Levinsohn’s sat outside the museum on three Sundays and folded paper cranes. The crane, which has come to symbolize peace and hope, is the image used in the children’s monument in Hiroshima. A basket of these cranes is in the senior center exhibit, and an article on the children’s monument is among the reading material on the desk. Everyone who wishes to may take a crane or make one to bring to the exhibit.

Levinsohn has never cared which month any of her art has been exhibited, but for this show, she wanted August. Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. Aug. 11 is her uncle’s birthday.

The Chapel Hill Senior Center is at 400 S. Elliott Road in Chapel Hill and is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Call 968-2071 with questions.

Deborah R. Meyer can be contacted at 932-2019 or at
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