In 1986, Andy Warhol produced a series of prints and paintings based on the four-color US M81 Woodland camouflage. Though he painted the traditional greens, browns, and blacks, he also created versions with garish pinks, yellows, and blues.
In this work, Wiebe references camouflage techniques and patterns that are based on military instructions from WW1 and WW2. Since the full-on invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, we have seen coverage in the media of Ukrainian men, women, and children coming together to make camouflage nets by hand to be sent to their troops on the front lines. Last fall, Wiebe organized a large community-based art project where hundreds of people helped in making three large camouflage nets that were sent to Ukraine to be used wherever necessary along the front lines. This is a fourth net, made by Wiebe using the same techniques. Though grounded in olive drab, she incorporates loud pinks, oranges, yellow greens, and blues.
Warhol appreciated the beauty of the camouflage pattern as it resembled abstract expressionist painting, and was indifferent to its political symbolism. Wiebe recognizes that while she enjoys the aesthetic pleasure of the camouflage’s organic shapes and beautiful patterns, the symbolic weight of camouflage is impossible to ignore.
By adding obtrusively bright colours to the olive drab net, Wiebe calls out the sanitization of war that we often see through nice looking photos, in writing, in fashion, and via war memorials. And while grounding the brightness in the gritty, messy, tangled, and dirty looking olive drab, she represents the actuality of war and the tactical efficiency of camo in nature.
Left: Installation of Garish Camo Net and Photographs at Hermés Gallery for Obscure = Secure: Revisioning Camouflage, February - March 26, 2023.
Right: Detail of 30ft x 14ft Garish Camo Net.
Garish Camo 1, 2, & 3
Referencing the history of camouflage transitioning into streetwear and high fashion in the 1980’s and onward. Wiebe frames herself wearing the camo net through the lens of editorial and fashion photography.
She uses her physical body within the cold stark environment to express the experience of those living in war. The frozen earth holding her body is similar to the visual media we have seen on social media of soldiers in Ukraine from the drones above. Series captured by photographer Aleyah Solomon.