Last week I was invited to speak at the 11th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
The exhibit started as an awareness campaign for the Breast Cancer Center and has now grown to encompass the use of the arts in many types of healing. The vast majority of artwork was created by patients at Walter Reed. Mine was there because the director loves my work and believes that it speaks to the same audience. I took four pieces from my Army Wife series. The two aprons on the plinth will stay for about a month — until mid November.
It was a fantastic experience. I spoke about my inspiration for the series and how it not only allows me catharsis but can also give expression to others who may not have found their words or images. Apparently it went over well. It’s hard to predict what kinds of connections an event like this will create, but I met the young curator who put together the show, many well heeled ladies from the Spouses Club, and one in particular who already gave me some tips for local galleries to shop another show to. Best of all was sharing my artwork with an audience who “got it.” Several wives came up and thanked me for expressing their story.
As an aside, there is nothing so humbling as spending a day at Walter Reed Military Medical Center. While my military experience has had it’s challenges, they are nothing compared to those faced by the service members themselves — especially those with visible and invisible injuries. I met several people whom I’m sure could tell fascinating stories. But the people watching is what amazes me every time I visit. Torsos outnumber limbs. I see different prostheses on every visit. Emerging from the elevator was a guy wearing standard leg prostheses and carrying blade prosthetics for running. Another man walking down the hall had a prosthetic hand with movable fingers. I think it was one of those that the wearer can control with their thoughts. There is always all manner of wheelchairs. Our favorite this time was the guy being pulled by his bulldog, but the dog was having a bit of a hard time because of the slippery floors. And then there’s the dogs. Many people have their own service dogs (like the wheelchair-pulling bully), but Walter Reed also has their own comfort dogs. Volunteers take these dogs around to patients or just hang around in the halls for anyone who needs a little doggy fix. Each dog has it’s own adorable harness/vest/pack thingie made from old military uniforms. They were made by a volunteer and are absolutely fantastic — some making great use of the uniform collars or pockets. One dog had her own custom ID tag. Too cute. My husband always stops to love on the dogs. It’s part of his own healing.
I am honored to have been asked to be a (very small) part of this important center for our military service members and their families.