PORTAGE PARK — Two massive works by artist and Korean War veteran Jim Leedy that depict the horror of war have been bought by the Rabb Family Foundation to ensure they are preserved, the head of the foundation said Wednesday.
Both "Earth Lies Screaming,” a 47-foot-long, 12-foot-high sculpture, and "Atomic Skull" are part of the “Surrealism and War" exhibit that opened Memorial Day at the National Veterans Art Museum, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Lionel Rabb, the head of the foundation, said the foundation bought them to ensure they remain in Chicago and were accessible by the public after the exhibit at the Portage Park museum ends Nov. 1, Rabb said.
"We don't know yet where it will go, but it will be in Chicago," said Rabb, who is also the chairman of the museum's board of directors.
Heather Cherone discusses her military family and the impression the pieces left on her:
Rabb declined to reveal how much the foundation paid for the two works by Leedy, who taught sculpture at the Kansas City Art Institute for nearly 45 years after serving as a war photographer in Korea.
The interior walls of the museum had to be moved to accommodate the massive "Earth Lies Screaming," sculpture, Rabb said.
"We wanted to keep it all together," Rabb said.
Leedy, 83, created "Earth Lies Screaming" in 1999 to help him cope with the memory of unwittingly diving into a river near the Demilitarized Zone in Korea that was lined with dead bodies and skeletons.
From left to right, the wall at first depicts the killing of animals. Human skulls and bones then begin to appear, in a nightmarish melange of horrible images, including bloody baby dolls.
National Veterans Art Museum Director Levi Moore said the piece literally stopped visitors in their tracks.
"They will gasp as they turn the corner," Moore said. "Then they stop, and it takes them a minute to continue walking down the wall."
"Atomic Skull," which is 9 feet by 7 feet by 5 feet, was lying on its side when Rabb first saw it in storage near Leedy's studio.
The back of the skull forms a mushroom cloud, visible as viewers walk around the mammoth piece, which features dark, cavernous eyes.
In fall 2012, the museum moved to the Six Corners Shopping District in Portage Park as part of an effort to turn the area into an arts and entertainment district that will attract shoppers and diners.
The exhibit, which features work from veterans of the Korean War through the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, explores the relationship between surrealism and the experience of war.
Starting July 3, Gulf War veteran and ceramic artist Ehren Tool, 44, will become the second artist-in-residence at the museum. He plans to make hundreds of cups for and about veterans, and then give them away.
Veterans and their families can bring pictures and insignia for Tool to use during his ongoing workshop, dubbed "Occupation." Tool will be at the museum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays through July 19, according to the museum.
Starting Nov. 1, the National Veterans Art Museum will be the first museum to host the completed "100 Faces of War Experience" project, which depicts demographically accurate portraits of Americans who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The Rabb Family Foundation is also funding the Ed Paschke Art Center, which is scheduled to open June 22 in Jefferson Park.