OEF/OIF/OND Army Veteran/Artist Roberto Funes
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Sue Malley is Director of VA New York Regional Office and along with this position, she also serves as the curator of the Veterans Museum located in the Public Contact Space on the 2nd floor of 245 Houston Street. Recognizing that the exhibits needed to be expanded and updated, Malley also knew that existing displays “ emphasized history rather than Veteran art.” She wanted to fill in the gap. A discussion with longtime VA Art Therapist Beryl Brenner provided a very welcome opportunity to show art that came out of her recent Creative Arts Therapy sessions at the Veteran Support Center at VA’s Brooklyn Campus.
“Inked Identity: Veterans Explore Tattoos”, the show which opened on October 16 at VBA, was previously exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building for three weeks during the month of Nov. 2011. It was the first specific showing of Veteran artwork since WWII. Some of the preparatory groups were held at the Museum prior to the opening. Brenner has had a long and fruitful history of collaboration with the Museum and often works with MoMA educator Sally Paul.
As Brenner explained at the opening of the VBA show,” tattoos are part of Veteran culture even though they have been adopted today by a broader contemporary group”. The idea of having combat and non combat Veterans design tattoos that express hard to express emotions has resulted in powerful images that were also therapeutic in the making. Brenner also said she believes that the truest history comes from those who have really participated. “Let these people tell their story,” she said.
OEF/OIF/OND Army Veteran Roberto Funes, a former NYC detective, was among other Veterans in the Veterans Support Center at VA's Brooklyn Campus whose work is exhibited. Hearing him describe his tattoo design immediately evokes troubling emotions and explores avenues of release. Pointing to stars in his drawing, he recalled that, “ stars in the desert would give me peace even though I knew explosions were coming.”
Other Veteran/artists expressed their gratitude for the therapeutic benefits of the VANYHHS program. In this context, Carlos Cole said,” I’m a combat Vet. That’s what I know. That’s what I’m built for. Brooklyn has the most wonderful people you’ll ever meet in your entire life.”
Malley said that in addition to continuing an emphasis on Veteran art in the museum, she’s looking to develop the section on Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and encourages anyone with photos and/or memorabilia to contact her at VBA.