- Associated Press - Monday, June 26, 2017

BRYAN, Texas (AP) - A soldier standing beside a landscape of dark and menacing colors. An intricate, interactive piece about a murder with a cryptic, decodable message. A painting containing the words, “I hate fish tacos.”

The Eagle reports these pieces and more - created by Texas veterans - will line the walls of Downtown Bryan’s The Village Cafe & Art 979 from now until July 16.

The collection is the Eighth Annual Distinguished Artist Veteran exhibit for VSA Texas, an Austin-based arts and disability organization that has been hosting programs specifically geared toward veterans since 2009.

“Art is a healing component for a lot of veterans,” said Janelle Matous, development director of VSA Texas. “They really feel it’s a part of their healing process.”

The program - this year’s is called “The Re-integration Project” - is a collection of writings, music and art. The nonprofit hosted a series of writing classes from late 2016 to early 2017, creating a 100-page book filled with poems, short stories and screenplays written by 13 veteran writers. VSA Texas then put out a call for veteran artists and songwriters to respond to pieces of writing produced in the class. The result was even more art for The Re-integration Project. Now, the text and accompanying artistic renderings line The Village’s walls, and the music can be listened to online.

Judy King, one of the featured artists who responded to a piece of text, said she had been immediately inspired from the selected reading she chose to depict in a finger painting.

“I started getting images through the first paragraph,” she said, describing the pictures her head started imagining while reading “The Absence Inside,” written by Barbara A. Malone-Verduin.

King, who served in the Air Force in Phoenix from 1975-79, said the colors and patterns “came to me as I was reading.”

King said she creates art as “a de-stressing kind of thing” that she can “get lost in.”

Douglas Meredith, who served in the Navy from 1975-79 - stationed in places such as Key West and Los Angeles, places he sarcastically called a “real rough duty” - produced multiple pieces for the exhibit, among them the “Fish Tacos” and interactive pieces mentioned above, as well as a screenplay.

Meredith’s artistic process involves meticulous research, contrasting with King’s “paint is as I see it” approach. But each veteran’s piece is striking in the impression left on the viewer and the interpretation of the corresponding text.

Meredith said much of his art is inspired by the struggle for human rights and out of concern for the environment. He recently went to Standing Rock to support those who protested the Dakota Access Pipeline, where he was struck with a rubber bullet - which he called more “frozen” than rubber, considering the cold - that knocked him off his feet.

Meredith said he saw a connection between the struggle for human rights, environmental sustainability and his representation of those struggles on the canvas.

“I hope to make some kind of statement,” he said. “I see a lot of work coming ahead.”

Some artists were at The Village on a recent Thursday night to perform music and talk about their pieces at an artist showcase, traveling to Bryan from across Central Texas.


Information from: The Eagle, https://www.theeagle.com

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