Artist Susan J. Barron captures thirteen American veterans who survived the trauma of war in a series “Depicting the Invisible”.
On November 9th, Susan J. Barron’s portraiture series “Depicting the Invisible” opened in New York’s H.G. Contemporary Gallery. Calling attention to the fact that over 10% of military families live below the poverty line, and an average of 22 U.S. Veterans commit suicide every day in our country, Barron remanded her mixed media artistry to increasing the visibility of veterans. Having interviewed over a dozen veterans for her story, the stunning result is a series of photographic portraits superimposed with excerpts from the veterans’ stories.
According to Barron, the “ultimate mission is not one of simplistic deification, but one of truthful illumination. This body of work is intended not only give voice to these warriors’ harrowing, shocking, and often hopeful stories, but to create a dialogue and community around the difficult issue of PTSD. The mission is to depict the invisible scars of war. The mission is to show these brave individuals they are not alone. The mission is to end their isolation and depict them as the hero’s they are.”
On the night of the opening, veterans who participated in Susan’s art were in attendance. The unique event honored them in a way rarely afforded to veterans following their departure from the military. Through Freedom Fighter Outdoors (FFO), a non-profit that organizes group vacations for veterans, the veterans also connected with one another and the art show. The gallery opening served as a fundraising opportunity for FFO, selling the first print edition of the art book for “Depicting the Invisible.”
“To have a sense of brotherhood, a sense of life again, a sense of purpose — I know it has changed all of our lives,” said Vinnie, a veteran in attendance, describing how FFO trips with fellow veterans changed his life. “I can tell you that just the books sold are going to provide 1000 veterans with the opportunity to go out and have that brotherhood again. It is going to change their lives, one step at a time we are going to reduce that 22 suicides a day.”
We asked Ms. Barron some questions about her work.
Q. What inspired you to create the pieces?
Barron: I was saddened and appalled to learn that 22 veterans commit suicide every day in our country. As an artist I felt compelled to give these veterans suffering from PTSD a voice through my work and to bring awareness to this devastating epidemic. I think art has the potential to be a catalyst for social change.
Q. How did you contact the subjects of the pieces?
Barron: I met many veterans through word of mouth and it grew organically. I also met many veterans through organizations helping vets with PTSD.
Q. Are there any stories about the veterans that stand out?
Barron: All of them! Ultimately these works are about a human connection. In the portrait of Sergeant Renoula Trotter the story of her rape by a star soldier captures the intersection of military sexual assault and the #MeToo movement. In the portrait of Corporal Derek Butler, with his service dog, he recounts the horrors of war: “When I got back from Iraq, I’d have this one recurring nightmare—I had to watch my buddy die.” He tells us it took his second suicide attempt to get a service dog for his PTSD. All of these 14 stories illuminate these veterans experiences and initiate a conversation around the sensitive issue of PTSD.
Q. Do you have family and/or friends that served? That served in combat?
Barron: My father served in the Navy but never saw combat. I have never been in the military myself but I believe we owe or veterans a huge debt of gratitude for their sacrifices.
Video: Shot & Written by Diego Lynch / Edited by Andres Guerrero
Story Edited by Anthony A. LoPresti
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