05 December, 2013
For years, people have asked me if I've seen any VA medical and mental health services to address any of my issues post-Iraq. I wished, many times, that I had a brochure or info packet for what I've experienced in being rejected as a female combat veteran, and one who experienced a great deal of racial persecution while in the military. I was tired of telling and re-telling my story.
So I took to writing and painting.
In the past eight years, as a result of negative experiences with VA, I used art and writing as my 'pressure valve.' It was a way for me to express myself and say everything I wanted to say and, occasionally, without using any words at all.
In the past year or so, veterans art programs have been popping up almost as fast as Iraq and Afghanistan charities and fronts were emerging in the mid-2000s like mushrooms after a fresh spring rain. At first, it worried me. It concerned me that something so sacred as connecting through creative means - and without the socially-accepted treatment of every mental health woe through a litany of psychotropic medication - just might be exploited.
However, it's incredibly tough to do just that. In the end, when it comes to the creative path, you have to mean what you do and, more often than not, your work speaks for itself. It's far too easy to brand an organization as 'for veterans' or about 'making changes' or 'storming the Hill," and blind the general public into believing you have something beyond a fancy sign - and no inventory.
So far, the collaboration process between other veteran artists like Yvette Pino at Veteran Print Project or Mark Pinto, to name a few, have consisted of incredibly positive experiences. November also brought the opportunity, as seen in the video above, to really shed light on how art affects the soul of combat veterans.
Thanks to the team at Congresswoman Jackie Speier's office and the Commonwealth Club of California, I not only had the opportunity to display my art, but I also was given the space to share my soul.
In the end, there were a lot of great questions from the audience for Ari Sonnenberg, Drew Mendelson, and I. To have your work, your anguish, and frustration validated by someone completely unknown to you is a surreal feeling. I explained, in an abridged version of course, the pain I experienced in Iraq which resulted in every copy of "Quixote in Ramadi" selling before I could even make it back to the table in the lobby. Also, not a bad feeling. However, I hope, if anything, that no matter what type of trauma you've experienced or pain that you feel, that you express yourself somehow. Find your pressure valve and make good use of it as a positive coping mechanism. In doing so, you also give permission and space for others to do the same.
For more info on my work, feel free to peruse: www.thedesertwarrior.com
To preview or purchase "Quixote in Ramadi," click here
14 October, 2013
The most devastating feeling one can experience after trauma, whether it's combat or not, is invalidation, apathy. When I returned and was shunned by the VA, I took to art as a positive coping mechanism. While other veterans I knew were on 14 different psychotropic medications prescribed to them by VA, I was using art as a pressure valve - and it worked.
Through art I can say things that are perhaps too painful to verbalize and it's subtle enough to lure people into a message that they perhaps didn't want to hear. Sure, flag-waving and care packages are nice, but no one really wants to hear the ugly truth. But once I have you looking at a painting, I am invoking thought on the subject matter. No matter how much you may disagree with me, I am successful for merely luring you into questioning your own beliefs through an unsuspecting pretty piece of art.