Archive for May, 2010

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

May 1, 2010

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

“P.T.S.D.” is one of my paintings that has gotten a lot of attention. It is a diptych in acrylics on canvas. Each piece is 24×36, so when hung it is about 50 inches across.

PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (Syndrome). It can be related to any traumatic life event – rape, robbery, a beating, auto accident, etc. It can also relate to military experience, combat, or capture experiences. You do not have to be a member of the military to experience “military-related” PTSD.

This painting was originally done for an exhibit of mine in Davis, California.

You can learn more about the exhibit by buying a copy of the Exhibit Book or by viewing the website (click here). For the exhibit I collected work from many other people, including artists, military personnel, civilians and journalists who had been impacted directly by war.

After the Davis show, the piece moved to Pomona (LA area) as part of an exhibit with the Society of Layerists in MultiMedia (SLMM). This Society believes that “all things are connected” (as I do) and explores the many layers of meaning that can be found in a piece of art.

This painting is now showing at the Red Bluff Art Gallery, where a new “layer” has been revealed to me. It seems that local teenagers have made this painting one of the “most viewed” in the gallery. The Gallery Director reports that a teen who had come in more than once, offered “$200” for the painting. I’m guessing that was a pretty big deal – a great offer – by someone with limited resources.

My intention was to show two sides (or stages) of a human heart. The first, in an almost Disneyesque-rendering (and colours) is meant to represent the heart in its state at birth. Here the heart is clearly vibrant and without stress or morbid experience. It soon changes, but the second half of my piece is meant to show the heart at about the age of 20. Here it is distressed, has been ripped out, sewn back together, and now the seams are weakening. There are lines of stress coming from a map of Iraq in the lower corner and where the lines enter the heart, there is some darkness (or decay).

I painted this from my own experiences. Although I arrived at adulthood in the Viet Nam era and served in the military then, I have close ties to the Iraq war as well. My book, Brother Eagle, Sister Moon, was thoroughly researched and based on the lives of real people serving in that conflict. During the research process, and afterwards at book-signings and exhibitions, I encountered the pain of PTSD over and over again in the people I met.

I have since done a TV documentary on PTSD; my Exhibit Book has been useful to social workers and to the VA, and to other Vets. It is a journey that started in 1966 and continues each and every day. That teens also see their own struggles (romantic and otherwise) in the painting reveals to me the deeper levels of consciousness that painting allows me to tap.

Sometimes, as painters, we begin a painting and it takes a life of its own at some point. The energy we may have put into motion, gathers steam and – if we let it – expands our consciousness and understanding of life. Painting is a wonderful gift.