Artist's Statement

Todd Bradley

Archival Pigment prints - 13.5 x 13.5 framed War Stories I Never Heard explores the impact of discovering a loved one’s World War II military stories after his death, and the longing for a deeper personal connection with him after he is gone. My grandfather Raymond Bradley was just 21 years old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943 to fight Hitler’s Nazi regime that was taking over the world. Hitler had been trying to create a superior race by killing the “unfit,” including Jews, the physically/mentally handicapped, and homosexuals. I am gay and I recently discovered a small percentage of my ancestry is Ashkenazi Jewish. Had I been living in 1944, my life would have been in danger; my grandfather was fighting for me 75 years ago without his knowing it. After he passed in 2008, I was given a small box of photographs and mementos of my Grandpa Ray. I knew he had fought in Normandy, but it never registered as anything important. But all of a sudden, holding his stripes and medals in my hands, I needed to know about his time in battle. Due to the limited number of photos from D-Day and bits of information written on the backs of photos he saved, I created dioramas to fill in the gaps and recreate scenes from photographs my grandpa had kept. I tell about his time serving in the Army during WWII through still-life arrangements of memorabilia, photo collages, and our genetic DNA codes, which symbolize our family lineage. I establish a timeline from his arrival in England for training—leaving his newly pregnant wife, Mary Louise, back home in Wayne, Michigan—and his time quartering with a wealthy family, the Firths, who are threaded through the story. I follow him as he serves at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France, on D-Day, his life at camp, and finally his discharge and return to the United States.