After seeing combat firsthand in 1991, artist Ehren Tool was shocked at how living life as a civilian means being surrounded by war.
“I came back from the ’91 Gulf War and during that war I wore a gas mask thinking that the air was poison," Tool recalls. "And I came back and it’s a toy now — for ages six and up."
Ehren Tool served with the 1st Marine Division during Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After he came back to California, Tool attended Pasadena City College and the University of Southern California on the G.I. Bill. In 2004, he received his Master of Fine Arts in Art Practice from the University of California, Berkeley.
His new exhibit "Production or Destruction" is an autobiographical project made up of hundreds and hundreds of handmade ceramic cups, decorated with ceramic decals from pop culture and combat. There are 1,100 cups lining the exhibit walls, and 393 cups sit shot and shattered on the installation floor.
They're exhibited in units based on military formations: squads, platoons, companies. Each serve as a visual reminder of a Marine within a unit.
Tool refers to his work as “war awareness” as opposed to “anti-war."
"A lot of the cups are that collision and collusion between military and civilian cultures," he explains. "Like a World War I toy soldier. In World War I, 10,000 people a day would die, and you make a toy of that? I think if you’re making toys out of that, then war’s pretty abstract to you."
The former marine will sit outside the Craft and Folk Museum in Los Angeles until June 16, creating cups and giving them out to anyone who comes up to him.
His work will be on display at the Craft and Folk Museum until September 9.