Contemporary artist Marie Leterme’s current series of sculptures and collagraph prints are a synthesis of nostalgia and history; stemming from a resurgence of childhood memories and a lifelong study of history, her pieces are a tribute to times past and lives lost. Leterme was born near Ypres, Belgium, a place that served as a battlefield during both World Wars. As a child, unaware of the tragedies the fields had witnessed and much to the dismay of her parents, she played on the former battlegrounds “exploring old trenches and tunnels and dragging home many treasured finds…bouquets of red Poppies and blue Cornflowers and pockets full of old ammunition.”
Understandably, Leterme has, over the years, immersed herself in the study of World War I. In the artist’s studio, shelves are riddled with books on the subject, which she has read, she explains, “in an effort to comprehend how such a monstrous war was possible.”
Her father, Leterme tells us, was just starting his medical practice at the outbreak of World War II and was often “taken in the middle of the night at gunpoint, by either side, to tend to the wounded.”
“On one of those nights,” she continues, “he found his own sister at a wounded man’s side, and so learned that she was a Resistance courier.” In remembrance of her aunt, Leterme used one of her aunt’s silk blouses to create the collagraph plate for her print She was a Resistance Courier.
A few years ago, Leterme visited the Ypres Museum of World War I and, once again, found herself on those same fields lined with crosses and dotted with bold red poppies—this time fully conscious of the heartbreak and sorrow they represented. This experience left her “obsessed with the need to make a Poppy sculpture;” a need that was compounded by a recent discovery at a book sale in Galveston of a 1920 Michelin Guide for touring the Flanders Battlefields of World War I containing maps of that very same countryside. This served as a catalyst, re-triggering memories of innocent games, family histories, and human adversities. World War I, the artist states, “was to be the war to end all wars, but was followed within twenty years by World War II…and today [one hundred years later] we are still seeing young men and women thrown on new killing fields.”Written by Laura Rossi