On Friday, went to an exhibit called “Radical Vulnerability” at the National Veteran’s Art Museum. What a powerful experience. A veteran of the Iraq war walked us through the exhibit, and we got to hear his thoughts and experiences. In addition to seeing some incredibly moving and gut-wrenching artwork, I learned some interesting but disturbing facts.
- One third of service women are sexually assaulted by fellow service people.
- The rate of suicide among veterans is currently higher than the rates of soldier death in any ongoing conflicts.
- Unemployment rates for veterans are among the highest compared with other demographics–up to 30% for women and minorities.
After the program was over, I talked to the veteran who gave us the exhibit tour. I had noticed he had a paper clip tattoo on the outside of his right hand, and I asked him about it. It’s a symbol of a movement called People Against People Ever Re-enlisting Civilian Life is Perfect. Indeed.
I want to write more about what I saw and felt, but I’m still trying to process it and turn into coherent statements. So, for now, I’ll share some photos.
The first two images are untitled works by Malachi Muncy. Both are prints on combat paper, which is made when a deconstructed military uniform is turned into pulp and made into paper. The first image shows an imprint of a uniform, and the second, a one-legged soldier.
The next series of images are from a work called “Fatigues Clothesline,” compiled by Regina Vasquez. Military uniform jackets are turned inside out and written and drawn upon to represent the feelings that victims of sexual assault carry inside them. The aim of this project is to help individuals move past Military Sexual Trauma by telling their story while educating the public at the same time.
The next image is of a piece called “They Are Mine to Keep,” by Edgar Gonzalez-Baeza, which tackles the stigma of acknowledging the trauma of battle instead of “taking it like a man.” Instead of maintaining stoicism in the face of PTSD, Gonzalez-Baeza encourages individuals to embrace their fears and pain in order to begin to overcome them.
Next, are pictures of a piece called “Good Morning PTSD” by Christopher Arendt. Thousands of service people develop PTSD after their service. Although the military offers medications to veterans with this condition, little else is offered in the way of therapy or counseling.
Finally, here are two pictures of “Desert Angel” by Marcus Eriksen. Eriksen attempted to recreate the image of the first dead soldier he saw in Iraq. The resulting image is absolutely haunting.