Healing the wounds of war

Rick McCarty, 2000
The National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL

Memorial Day, 2010

My cousin Jim Fogarty came over to visit one summer when I was in my early teens. He was just back from Vietnam. As we sat together in the living room, Jim took some lined, loose-leaf paper and started drawing with a blue ballpoint pen. He made a few drawings but the one I remember was of a soldier in helmet and field gear with a rifle slung over his shoulder. I was so impressed!

Jim struggled terribly after his service and eventually disappeared. One day his youngest brother received a phone call from the Veteran's Administration. Jim's body had been found in a rented room. I thought of his drawings and wondered what might have become if he'd had a chance to concentrate on his drawing skills.

The American Art Therapy Association now works with Veterans to provide emotional relief from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and related problems stemming from service experience by encouraging creative expression through drawings and other forms of art making.

In 1980, the Vietnam Veterans Art Group formed in Chicago and put together a touring exhibit of Veteran artwork the following year. That initial effort has grown to become The National Veterans Art Museum. The drawing by Rick McCarty at the top of this post is from their collection.

Grady Myers
The Mascot
Ink on paper, 21.25 x 29.25 inches
National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, IL

Another artist represented in that collection is Grady Myers. Read an article from the Spokesman Review about his experiences, how he started drawing after returning wounded from Vietnam and developed his career as an illustrator and designer.

The Wounded Artist Project is a developing strategy that grew out of Ray Bakerjian's drawing classes at the John Dingle Veterans Hospital in Detroit. Through simple drawing instruction, the project seeks to provide constructive activity and encouragement for recovering Vets with an eye to developing potential careers based on their drawing efforts.

Although the focus is currently on paper and printmaking, the Combat Paper Project is turning military uniforms to pulp and conducting traveling workshops to train veterans how to make paper from that pulp for artwork. I have a feeling there will be drawings on the Combat Paper, if there aren't already.