Andrew Scott DeJesse
Andrew Scott DeJesse grew up in Marlboro, New Jersey and received his BFA in Illustration from the University of Arts in Philadelphia. After several years of working as an Art Director in Pharmaceutical Advertising, he relocated to Texas. The vastness and solitude of the Texas landscapes made such an impression on Andrew that he felt compelled to capture the truth and quiet beauty of the Southwest in his paintings.
After several years of working in the Northeast, I accepted an opportunity to relocate to Texas and thus began an intense study of the Southwest culture. I was and still am awestruck by the vastness of the country and depth of history that looms in the Texas landscapes.
My paintings are not the typical images one might see of Southwest paintings. My focus is on moments lost and places forgotten. I strive to paint not only what is seen in the present, but to also tell a story from the past and to capture the impressions made on the landscapes by the people and events that took place around them.
I use thin multi-layered abstract washes of paint to create an atmospheric quality. Each layer is allowed to bleed through the next in an abstract manner. When viewed in totality they appear realistic and give depth to the imagery. As I interpret the subject matter, I make no effort to paint photorealistic, instead I try to render what lies just beneath the surface literally and figuratively.
Scott DeJesse is a Modern Day Monuments Man
The Army Is Looking for a Few Good Art Experts
A new reserve group, inspired by the Monuments Men of the World War II era, will aim to protect antiquities and important cultural sites in war zones.
By Ralph Blumenthal and Tom Mashberg
Oct. 21, 2019
It’s no secret that the war-ravaged nations where American soldiers have been enmeshed in conflict for nearly two decades are home to many of civilization’s oldest and most prized antiquities and cultural treasures.
But in the heat of battle in Afghanistan or Iraq, how are troops to know whether they are taking their positions behind mounds of insignificant rubble or inside the precious remains of a 3,000-year-old temple complex?
The Pentagon’s answer, announced on Monday at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, is to take a page from one of World War II’s most storied military units, the teams of art experts known as the Monuments Men who recovered millions of European treasures looted by the Nazis.
The Army is training a new group with a similar mandate to be composed of commissioned officers of the Army Reserves who are museum directors or curators, archivists, conservators and archaeologists in addition to new recruits with those qualifications. They will be based at the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command at Fort Bragg, N.C.
“In conflict, the destruction of monuments and the looting of art are not only about the loss of material things, but also about the erasure of history, knowledge, and a people’s identity,” Richard Kurin, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian, said at the announcement. “The cooperation between the Smithsonian and the U.S. Army aims to prevent this legal and moral crime of war.”
Scott DeJesse, a Texas painter and lecturer at the Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., and an Army Reserve colonel who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the new unit’s mission is not to hunt down missing works of art in castles and salt mines, as the World War II force did. Instead it is to provide a scholarly liaison for military commanders and the local authorities to help secure the cultural heritage of the regions involved and rebuild civil society in war and disaster zones. Colonel DeJesse and Corine Wegener, director of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, developed the unit together. Ms. Wegener, formerly a curator at the Minneapolis Institute of Art is a retired Army reservist.
Ultimately, Colonel DeJesse said: “We want the host nation to protect their heritage. They’re the heroes. They save their own day.”
The new group will also aim to inform the United States military and allied forces of sites to avoid in airstrikes and ground fighting, and places where it should try to forestall looting. Those prevention and detection efforts conform to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, which the United States first joined in 2009.
Officials say the new force will start training at the Smithsonian Institution over five days in March of 2020, and that they hope to have about 25 experts ready to be deployed immediately afterward.
The training will encompass military doctrine as it relates to cultural protection, no-strike lists, and procedures to work with host nations to evacuate and safeguard museum collections.
The initiative comes at an urgent time for a region where human settlement dates back as far as 10,000 years and includes the remnants of Mesopotamian, Sumerian, Persian, Assyrian and Babylonian cultures. Afghanistan has been pillaged and desecrated by the Taliban for two decades; the Islamic State has wrought destruction and looted artifacts in Iraq, Syria and Libya; and rebel factions have sacked museums and mosques in Yemen.
While American forces are hardly expected to defend cultural treasures everywhere there is conflict, the military field manuals indicate that preserving artifacts “is not only a legal obligation but also plays a vital role as a force multiplier, winning the hearts and minds of the local population.” It also sends “a strong message that the U.S. military is respectful and professional,” the manuals say.
The United States suffered a black eye during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, when it was faulted for failing to protect the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad from plunder amid the chaos of the city’s fall. Archaeologists and State Department officials had warned that the museum’s tens of thousands of ancient objects were vulnerable, but the military had no equivalent of the monuments team at that point.
After that ransacking, Matthew Bogdanos, a colonel in the Marine reserves and classics scholar, formed an ad hoc group that took charge of protecting the museum and hunting down its stolen items. He wrote a book on his experience, “Thieves of Baghdad” (2005). He serves as chief of the Antiquities Trafficking Unit of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the only such department in the nation.
Of the new group, he said, “It was a great idea when I first proposed it in back in 2003, and it is even more crucial in today’s world where antiquities trafficking often funds terrorism.”
Reserve leaders working on the project were eager to evoke their forerunners in wartime Europe. “It’s like going back to our history,” said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey C. Coggin, deputy commander of the civil affairs command, largely staffed by reservists, who is to run the unit with its commander, Maj. Gen. Darrell J. Guthrie.
The announcement Monday, in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art housing some records of the Monuments Men, is meant to recall the 345 people — mostly men but also several dozen women — who donned uniforms and applied their art expertise overseas from 1943 to 1951. In the end they tracked down and recovered four million of some five million paintings and other artworks, books, Judaica and valuables stolen by the Germans in wartime. Two lost their lives.
A 2014 George Clooney movie, “The Monuments Men,” was based on work by Robert M. Edsel, a longtime champion of the Army art-hunters.
As reservists, the team will not be deployed full time, but will be attached to military units as conditions dictate, including in war zones where they could come under fire. The age limit for joining the Army reserves is 35, but that limit is often waived for specialists, and organizers of this unit say they are confident they will be permitted to recruit experienced professionals.
The United Kingdom has also formed a contingent of art reservists, the Cultural Property Protection Unit. Colonel DeJesse just returned from training with the British unit under Tim Purbrick, a lieutenant colonel and Gulf War veteran.
“The idea will be to identify sites so that we don’t drop bombs on them or park tanks on top of them,” Colonel Purbrick told journalists.
The new unit’s role will extend beyond war zones, said Dr. Kurin of the Smithsonian. In Haiti after the catastrophic 2010 earthquake, some 35,000 cultural treasures were rescued from the ruins, he said.
“Saving culture is not just the icing on the cake,” he said in an interview. “It’s the key to people’s identity, who they are.”
Jacob Breeden and Andrew Scott Dejesse are educating consumers about the dangers of purchasing cultural artefacts from war-torn nations
AMARILLO, Texas – In the wake of the Arab Spring, the Islamic State (IS) group swept through Iraq and Syria, and the world watched as the Middle East descended into violent chaos.
Countless lives have been lost and many more have been uprooted, resulting in the refugee crisis and the plundering of the cultural heritage of Syria and Iraq – including the infamous destruction of pre-Islamic temples in Palmyra and Nimrod.
Trafficking antiquities is big business, says Andrew Scott Dejesse, who has years of experience tackling the illegal trafficking in artefacts as an officer in the US Army Reserves. The amount of money made from the illicit trade is “three to six billion [dollars], and that’s just a guess,” Dejesse continued.
He would know. Dejesse served as a cultural affairs officer in the US Army Reserves for years before being promoted to the post of cultural preservation officer, the first of his kind. These duties include being a liaison between local populations and the army to help maintain the value of their heritage. Dejesse stressed that he was not speaking as a member of the Army, however.
During one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan, he came to appreciate the cultural riches of both nations.
The grey market
He hopes to educate buyers on the "grey market". When asked what that means, Dejesse explained that in reference to antiquities, “the black market, meaning things sold illegally, and the legal white market, are so intertwined that it is 'grey'".
The filming of the destruction at Palmyra and other ancient sites seized by IS has more than propaganda value, says Jacob Breeden, an artist in Amarillo who works with Dejesse to raise awareness over antiquities trafficking.
“It’s a smart move on their part. They show footage of cultural heritage being blown up and it makes the value of what’s left increase,” Breeden explains.
Referring to the videos of IS bulldozing and detonating artefacts in territory across the land it occupies, he says: “It’s like when Damien Hirst bought back all of his art to raise its value.” Breeden is referring to the British artist and entrepreneur who purchased his own work back from collector Charles Saatchi.
'These are objects with hundreds or thousands of years of history. At what point do you define that it’s stolen property?'
Breeden and Dejesse have worked together over the past year to create the Collective Heritage Lab (CHL), based in the High Plains city of Amarillo in the deeply conservative, oil-rich Texas Panhandle. The CHL hopes to educate buyers both locally and internationally about the dangers of buying trafficked artefacts from war-torn nations.
Trafficking is a huge issue. In August, the US Department of State imposed emergency import restrictions to protect Syria’s antiquities.
“Preserving the cultural heritage of Syria will be a vital component in shaping a future for the country based on reconstruction, reconciliation, and building civil society,” the release on the import restrictions says.
The CHL has an interdisciplinary approach to the problem. Technology for tracking artefacts will be mixed with media outreach campaigns to shine light on the problem and teach the public. Breeden and Dejesse both say that international laws governing the antiquities market are “without teeth,” due to a lack of mechanisms that validate an object’s origin.
'We can’t stop people from plundering objects from those lands. But we can redirect people to the contemporary works by people from these regions'
“Provenance” is what the antiquities community views as the ideal means of identifying the history and legality of cultural goods. According to the International Foundation for Art Research, provenance details “a documentary record of owners’ names; dates of ownership, and means of transference, i.e. inheritance, or sale through a dealer or auction; and locations where the work was kept, from the time of its creation by the artist until the present day.”
“There’s a limited number of provenanced objects," Dejesse continued. “These are objects with hundreds or thousands of years of history. At what point do you define that it’s stolen property?”
A solid methodology
Another project that deals with the antiquities trade is the Modelling the Antiquities Market in Iraq and Syria (MANTIS), which "builds an innovative multidisciplinary model to estimate the hypothetical value of archaeological material to insurgent groups in Iraq and Syria,” according to its website.
MEE spoke to Oya Topcuoglu, the project’s head researcher in archaeology at the University of Chicago and lecturer at Northwestern University, about the antiquities trade.
While many assume that it is huge frescos and statues being trafficked, that is not the case: “The general assumption is that the market is what you would normally see at big auction houses – Christie's or Sotheby’s for example. The problem with that assumption is that we’re not seeing anything like that on the market,” Topcuoglu said in an interview.
So what is being moved? “Coins for instance, or clay tablets. These are smaller than the palm of your hand. It’s easy for them to put these in their pockets and walk through the border. They’re also very easy to find at an archaeological site,” Topcuoglu continued, “they don’t make a lot of money, but they add up.”
The booming trade is due to a number of factors. Topcuoglu says that demand and lack of awareness are both key. People are often ignorant to the fact that “what they’re buying from a website for a couple of hundreds of dollars is aiding a criminal or terrorist organisation,” the researcher continued.
Topcuoglu hopes that MANTIS’s “solid methodology” will help raise consumer awareness among academics and policy-makers surrounding the legal market.
Uniting the community
Back in Amarillo, CHL’s Dejesse and Breeden say they also want to redirect consumerism towards modern works from those same nations.
“We can’t stop people from plundering objects from those lands. But we can redirect people to the contemporary works – to the people from these regions,” Breeden said.
Part of the motivation behind their desire to do so is to raise cultural awareness about the recent population changes to CHL's hometown.
'We asked ourselves, how we can introduce their forms of cultural expression? Expression as an artistic term – basket weaving, drawing, painting, it’s what we do as humans'
According to some reports, Amarillo has the highest per capita refugee population of any city in Texas. It’s not much – roughly 1.3 percent according to local media reports, but their arrival has caused outrage in the conservative community.
The refugees come from Iraq, Somalia, Burma, Afghanistan, Iran and elsewhere. Throughout the city, neighbourhoods feature signs in many different languages.
“But many people in this town don’t know a thing about [the refugees’] cultures. So, we asked ourselves, how we can introduce their forms of cultural expression? Expression as an artistic term – basket weaving, drawing, painting, it’s what we do as humans.”
At the beginning of November, CHL hosted an exhibit of art from contemporary Afghan artists titled “Art Transcending Conflict.” Currently, the exhibit is in Washington, DC.
“The fact that Amarillo is the first city to get this exhibit after DC makes me very proud,” Dejesse said.
He was deeply affected by the people, landscapes and culture of Iraq and Afghanistan, where he toured with the army. An artist himself, Dejesse often paints realist scenes from Afghanistan.
Dejesse personally values the culture of these countries greatly, and he hopes CHL will help him share their beauty with others. “If you can elevate the value of their culture, it’ll lead to protection and preservation,” he concluded.
U.S. Army Creates Cultural Heritage Task Force
November 3, 20195:21 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
NPR's Leila Fadel talks with Col. Scott DeJesse about the development of the U.S. Army's new Cultural Heritage Task Force.
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Looted artwork, destroyed artifacts and damaged historical sites are often overlooked casualties in war zones. Now the U.S. military has taken concrete steps to protect those antiquities by creating the Cultural Heritage Task Force.
It's a partnership with the Smithsonian Institution. The idea is to find Army Reserve officers who also happen to be museum curators, archaeologists and other specialists in conservation and assign them to the unit. Task force members would then deploy with and advise troops during fighting on how to protect local sites. Colonel Scott DeJesse helped develop the new program, and he joins us from his office in Fort Bragg, N.C., to tell us more.
SCOTT DEJESSE: Good afternoon.
FADEL: So most listeners are probably familiar with the success that a similar unit had protecting historical sites and returning stolen artwork during World War II. So how will today's cultural heritage task force be the same or different from the Monuments Men?
DEJESSE: What we're going to do is provide a new capability - basically, civilian expertise that cannot be generated in the Department of Defense. And the difference between the Monuments Men of World War II and the cultural heritage preservation officers of today is the way the conflicts have recently been fought. So World War II was about capturing cities and defeating armies. Recent conflicts have been more about the populace. So cultural heritage - it's kind of tying more into how it relates to people.
FADEL: Right. So it happens that the U.S. has been in conflict for some two decades now - first in Afghanistan, then Iraq, troops in Syria.
FADEL: And these are places with centuries of history - Iraq and Syria referred to as the cradle of civilization. So how much did those settings have to do with the desire to form this new unit?
DEJESSE: Yeah. It played involvement because there was a lack of capability there. And a lot of times, the government would turn to the Smithsonian. Or, you know, there's elements of the State Department that deal with this. But when it's combat, those type of institutions and organizations can't enter in that space. There's got to be uniformed personnel. So over the years of conflict, this capability has been missed.
FADEL: Right. What are some examples of historic sites, artifacts, works of art that have been lost in conflict that you're thinking of when you think about this capability going forward?
DEJESSE: You know, 2003, the looting in the Museum of Baghdad. Looting - since the history of warfare, this has taken place. It's a resource. It can be traded on the illicit market. The museum in Kabul lost a lot of its collections. The building was - 50% of it was destroyed. Wherever there's conflict, cultural property is being destroyed and being looted. Once the civil society starts breaking down and conflict becomes an issue, cultural property - it gets illegally transferred, or it gets destroyed.
FADEL: I just think about history as identity and part of the history of a nation. And that's a loss you can't get back, really.
DEJESSE: Yeah. A keen interest of mine is intangible cultural heritage, the idea that this is directly connected to our hearts and our minds, and this is the beliefs that we carry with us. There are social practices. And with people that are displaced in conflict, they kind of get separated and moved around, and you start losing a lot of that heritage that defines us. What we're saying is protect cultural heritage, it actually helps to get to peace and stability and making that argument more relevant to military commanders.
FADEL: These are zones that are dangerous that would be difficult for civilians to go into. Will the members be soldiers first, conservators second? How would that work?
DEJESSE: Well, first and foremost, we're soldiers. But our expertise in the area of cultural heritage supports the mission commander. We wear the uniform. We serve the mission of whatever is dictated and directed by the commander.
FADEL: Now, you're an artist yourself. How did that inform your work in developing this team?
DEJESSE: I went to art school to get a Bachelor of Fine Arts, and then I was doing ROTC separately. And to think that these worlds somehow have merged back on each other is incredible. What we want to do is work with the local countries and make them the monuments men and women of their own country. That's really what we're trying to get to.
FADEL: That's Army Reserve Colonel Scott DeJesse, who helped develop the military's new Cultural Heritage Task Force.
Thanks so much, and good luck.
DEJESSE: Thank you.
- ‘Art transcends conflict’: Texas artists take on artefact trafficking
- The Army Is Looking for a Few Good Art Experts
- Artist Web Site
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Articles about Pickens Museum
- Pickens Museum/NOC Mural Dedication Set for June 16th
- Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum May 12, 2021
- Pickens Museum and NOC Announce Mural by Osage Artist Yatika Starr Fields May 5, 2021
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- Sculptor Bryant Baker's Lost Masterpiece November 3, 2015
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