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Veteran Artists Use Military Life As Inspiration

November 21, 2013

Some of the things that defined your life the most are often the greatest inspiration for art.

Such is the case for these INCREDIBLE Army vets.

Veteran artists like Army Sgt. Ron Whitehead use their experiences as a fuel for their passion and the result is nothing short of stunning.


The painting is at once stark and colorful: a pair of desert combat boots sits against a smoky, green background. The boots are worn in and weathered. They’re covered with paint, some red, like blood. Former Army Sgt. Yvette Pino calls this image of her boots from Iraq her “Self Portrait.”

At first glance, a second painting is simply the American flag, but look closer and you’ll see camouflage. The artist, former Army Sgt. Ron Whitehead, explained that “True Colors” represents not only the flag he served so faithfully during Desert Storm and the camouflage of his uniform, but also the deep connection between all veterans. The true colors of veterans, he said, will always shine through.

Former Army Spc. 5 Neil Leinwohl similarly commemorated his time in Vietnam with repeating elephants in a painting called “Chu Chi,” after a heavily tunneled area of the country. The elephants symbolize the Rome plows used by Leinwohl’s unit to uproot trees and deprive the enemy of cover. Viet Cong crawl through the blood-red tunnels below.

The three pieces are just a few of the 50 works of art scheduled to be exhibited at the Pentagon starting the week of Nov. 11. Sponsored and coordinated by the Veteran Artist Program, it’s the Pentagon’s first art show by all veteran artists, and will be on display for a year. Those who work in or have access to the Pentagon can view the art on the second floor, at the apex of the first and second corridors.

Founded by Army veteran B.R. McDonald in 2009, the Veteran Artist Program is dedicated to “helping veterans transition from a life in the military to a career in the arts.” The exhibit is a part of that, a way to show the world just how talented veterans are.

“I was impressed with the art’s quality. It’s of a professional level. We’re very pleased,” said Albert Jones, exhibit curator for the Pentagon. “The Pentagon Patriotic Art Program is a rotating art program that provides opportunity to artists throughout the country to exhibit art in honor of all those that serve in defense of our great nation. The VAP exhibit fits perfectly into the program because the artists are veterans. Veterans are actually foremost among those we’re honoring with the program. It is their selfless sacrifices, and that of their families, that help preserve the freedom of which every American is privileged. Our veterans more than deserve the very best opportunity that can be provided, and we’re very pleased to play a small part.”

The transition from war to the art world can be challenging, said Leinwohl, who left art school in 1966 to volunteer for the Army. Many of his friends were being drafted and it just felt like something he should do. Plus, he later realized, he wanted to prove he was as tough as his veteran father.

Read More at DoD Live