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Art Therapy- Veterans’ Work at Dept. of Veterans Affairs Hospital Honor Troops

Vietnam veteran Ed Barone, of Bensonhurst, used his artwork to pay tribute to Americans currently serving in war zones. Call it a true labor of love – with a touch of competition thrown in for good measure.
At the Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital in Bay Ridge, veterans are creating sculptures, oil paintings, collages and even a diorama to salute the men and women of the military in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The art will be entered in a national VA contest, with the winner’s work featured on a poster for the upcoming Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Luis Santos, of Brownsville-East New York, is entering his collage in the contest to express gratitude to military personnel – past, present and future – in the two wars.

“I’m a peacetime soldier,” said Santos, who served in the Army in the late 1970s. “Some say, ‘Luis, you’re so blessed you didn’t have to go to war. You still did your job.’ But sometimes, I wish I was in the shoes of those who went.”

World War II vet Albert Venezia, of Midwood, created a multimedia collage with American flags attached to let modern military personnel know he understands what they’re going through. “This shows them wounded; it shows the guns, the planes and so forth,” Venezia said of his work. Some of the artists themselves served in one of the current conflicts. Leslie Wohlfeld, of Crown Heights, served in Afghanistan. The Air Force veteran created montages. “I used composites of three or four photographs to show our compound in Afghanistan, with a mountain view,” she said.

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Henry Chin-Hong, a former Army reservist who returned from Iraq in 2004, also created a montage – of Marines sleeping. “Whenever they could stop for a while, they would just try to get rest between missions,” Chin-Hong recalled.

Art therapist Melanie Zarabi is overseeing the veterans’ project. “We’re not after ‘let’s-make-beautiful-images’ here. We’re looking for authentic ones,” Zarabi said. “The whole idea is veterans honoring veterans.” Doing artwork about wars can bring up the veterans’ own traumas, and help the vets face them in a safe way, Zarabi said.

Daniel Blake, of Coney Island, said his sculptures allowed him to “get into the attic of my mind. I have no disagreement with the military. It gave me a lot. “But, after I got out, the real war began. I felt I didn’t belong,” said Blake, who served in the Navy. “The art gave me the balance I needed in my life.”

Paying tribute to Americans currently in war zones made Ed Barone, of Bensonhurst, feel better. The Army vet was a combat infantry pointman in Vietnam. He said, “I’m hoping, when they come home, they won’t be forgotten like we were.” Local veterans have until Sept. 30, to submit 13-inch-by-19-inch realistic or abstract artworks to the National Poster Project.source

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