The big kiss

A young sailor in a Navy uniform sweeps a nurse in a white uniform off her feet for the victory kiss in Times Square. An abandoned, small boy sits atop filth and bomb ruins holding a stuffed animal in his dirty hands.

These iconic images are exhibited in ‘World War II: Looking Back’ featured at the McNay Art Museum until May 10, 2015.

The exhibit features celebrated photographers Margaret Bourke-White and Alfred Eisenstad, as well as some unknown photographers whose identities may never be known. Featured among the many photographs are historic images like the powerful ‘Marines of the 28th Regiment of the 5th Division Raise the American Flag Atop Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima.’

This exhibit includes photographs that may have never been seen on display before, including one of UTSA Libraries’ Special Collections photographs of boys loading scrap onto a donkey in San Antonio.

‘World War II: Looking Back’ is curated by Director William Chiego, Chief Curator of Art after 1945 Rene Paul Barilleaux and 2014-2015 Semmes Foundation Intern in Museum Studies Genevieve Hulley. The exhibit features photographs covering international, national and local perspectives of the war. There are images that cover the international Pacific angle, including a photograph of the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.

There are color images of women during this time period working on war aircrafts for the United States. War memorabilia from San Antonio sits in a glass display, accompanied by a copy of the “Soldiers Guide to San Antonio.”

San Antonio is a huge hub for military activity and presence with Fort Sam Houston, Camp Bullis, and Air Force Bases such as Brooks, Kelly, Randolph and Lackland in the area.

“We wanted to focus on San Antonio and on the local aspect,” said Hulley. “We also included some images to make the Latino influence in World War II present to the public. We have collaborated with the ‘VOICES Oral History Project’ from the UT journalism department, which focuses on efforts to make the Latino experience in our country more fully documented.”

Brothers, Ramon Galindo and Tom Galindo from Austin, stand in military uniforms in front of an El Galindo Tortillas delivery truck. This was their family business during World War II and the image highlights local Latino presence from that era.

Latinos, as well as other under-represented groups, have made their presence known in this exhibit. The Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American Army pilots, are featured in a photography collage. One of the airmen sports aviator goggles for a photo taken in Ramitelli, Italy.

Almost an entire wall is dedicated to photographs of “Monuments Men.” This group of around 345 men and women were instrumental in protecting monuments, paintings and cultural treasures from destruction during World War II. There is a group photograph of Monuments Men leaders George Stout, Walker Hancock and Steven Kovalyak standing side by side with large guns strapped to their hips.

Marion Koogler McNay, previous owner of the house and grounds that the museum is built upon, is also featured in the exhibit because of her avid support of military efforts. McNay’s first husband died at an army camp in 1918, and in an effort to show her support for his military honor, she kept his last name until her death. During World War II, McNay continued her philanthropic involvement by providing housing for young officers and their families in San Antonio, and she helped veterans transition from military to civilian life once the war was over.

‘World War II: Looking Back’ has already gained attention according to Communications Assistant Tommie Ethington.

“This has been really exciting because everyone is really interactive with this exhibit,” said Ethington. “Lots of people are calling in and identifying unknown people in photographs, or wanting to contribute their own photos.”

All of the interaction, Ethington says, may cause the McNay to create a Facebook page for people to share comments about the exhibit and their own World War II photographs.

‘World War II: Looking Back’ provides a cross-generational learning experience through photographs.

“This exhibit really gives all generations a great chance to see the images from World War II,” Ethington said. “It inspires many to explore further and do their own research.”

Student admission to the McNay Art Museum is five dollars. More information can be found at mcnayart.org.

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