WAR-TOYS and Trench Art

WAR-TOYS: Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip


From Swords to Plowshares: World War II Metal Trench Art

July 10 – Sept. 25, 2019



WAR-TOYS: Israel, West Bank and Gaza Strip

Children often share their experiences and emotions through indirect methods of communication, such as art and play. As a result, their personal accounts of war frequently go unseen and unheard by the international community. In WAR-TOYS: Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip, Brian McCarty’s photographic works interpret children’s therapeutic drawings and offer a rare yet fascinating insight into the contemporary experiences of Palestinian and Israeli boys and girls. WAR-TOYS is a striking portrait of war from the eyes of the innocent, and opens July 10 at The Marshall M. Federicks Sculpture Museum.


McCarty is an internationally exhibited artist and toy industry veteran whose postmodern integration of concept and character has earned his photography a prominent position in the Art-Toy and Pop Surrealist movements. Yet, McCarty’s work is often more akin to reportage than photo-illustration. His approach is grounded in documenting actual—albeit manufactured—moments of time from personal perspectives. Since 2011, McCarty has worked with local humanitarian organizations in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, conducting art-based sessions with children who were severely affected by the conflict. Rocket attacks, air strikes, gunfire, and explosions were parts of daily life for this generation. With the help of specialized therapists and caregivers, questions were posed to understand the events the youth witnessed, and they were invited to create pictures of their lives and experiences.

WAR-TOYS: Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip was curated by Catinca Tabacaru, the founder of New York-based Tinca Art, Inc. It was organized by Tinca Art, Inc., and Exhibits USA/Mid-America Arts Alliance.


From Swords to Plowshares: World War II Metal Trench Art

From Swords to Plowshares offers a glimpse into the unusual phenomenon of objects known as “trench art.” The term “trench art” applies to any item made by soldiers, prisoners of war, or civilians from war material or any other material associated with armed conflict. The functional and decorative objects included in this exhibition focus on works in metal created during the Second World War.


Makers of trench art utilized spent artillery shells, bullet cartridges, shrapnel, aircraft parts, currency and other discarded metal scrap and applied materials. The ingenuity and skill range from primitive artillery shell vases to elaborately embellished lamps, cigarette lighters and ashtrays exhibiting extraordinary craftsmanship. The pieces are as varied and unique as the soldiers and civilians who created them.

Often a lost family memory buried in attics and basements, trench art tells a story of bravery, grief, patriotism and even comic relief in times of death and destruction. Although many stories may have been lost, the quiet voice of trench art reminds us to never forget those who created this haunting art form. It is a testament to mankind’s indomitable creative spirit- that out of the scrap heaps of war, objects of beauty were created.

These exhibitions are made possible at the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum with grant support from the  Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the Saginaw Community Foundation.