Thursday, February 21

War Art for Peace Sake

John Paul Hornbeck is a peace advocate friend of mine here in Iowa City who needs a hand to attend an exhibition of his own art:

John Paul Hornbeck has created a sculpture called "Shattered Soldier" that depicts the mental and physical cost of war to soldiers. John Paul is a veteran himself, and is a dedicated activist, doing peer counseling for returning vets and organizing the Iowa City chapter of Iraq Vets against the War. "Shattered Soldier" has been selected to be in an exhibit opening in Rhode Island called "Experiencing the War in Iraq." The
aim of the exhibition is to give a human face to the complex conflict in Iraq, to bring together diverse expressions of individual experience and to reconnect those who have unconsciously cocooned themselves from the grim reality of the war. Please read the Artist's Statement below.

Here's the exhibited piece & info about the exhibition:

Now he needs some money to cover the expenses to deliver his work, and once that is covered, it would be really great if he had enough to cover travel expenses so that he can attend the opening.

Donations can be sent to:

John Paul Hornbeck
321 Hawkeye Ct

Iowa City, IA 52246

Artist’s Statement
-John-Paul Hornbeck

Shattered Soldier is a silent memorial created to mourn the loss of several of my comrades who have taken their lives; and others who never returned from this war. It speaks to the issues that vets face when they return to society, as a reminder of those parts of themselves that got left behind, while others bring back too much with them. Many veterans are like ghosts of their wars, dealing with survivors’ guilt & their own inner demons for years, and returning to a society that barely understands what they’ve been through. Despite the patriotism and parades; their reception isn’t usually accompanied with support to make a full transition from the battlefield to the home front.

My father returned from Vietnam nearly 35 years ago, and he's finally getting his leg amputated at the VA hospital in May, after fighting the typical uphill fight that vets go through to get their benefits. His was only 40% disability because it wasn't "service connected" (although it was a botched surgery by the Army, I'd sure as hell say it's "service connected" based on whose hand was holding the scalpel and performing the surgery.) I think they planned it that way by not amputating his leg, so they wouldn't have to increase his disability benefits. Growing up, I went to the VA with my father, sat around waiting for sometimes half a day. I witnessed other veterans in the waiting rooms, looking miserable. It was a day my father always dreaded, going to the VA, he'd drag me along to keep him company and cheer him up. Seeing those older vets look like tired ghosts, languishing in the system after serving their country, it made me seriously upset. Where were their honors now, after being treated as expendable after they've proven their usefulness? They simply faded away into their past, other than cheap trinkets and blanket honors, there was nothing really respectable about how they were treated by their primary care givers: the Government. The VA hospitals were like purgatory.

This sculpture represents how war becomes the soldier, for those – like my father and I, from two different eras, Vietnam and today – who’ve suffered from PTSD. Although the Vietnam-era veterans pioneered the diagnosis and treatment, naming their condition from the jungles that followed them home: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. My sculpture speaks of the many names; especially for PTSD, that have been passed down from previous wars, until we find ourselves in another situation, the condition is renamed and treated like a whole new problem. Many veterans’ issues have never been given the proper attention that they should, and still remain current problems that returning veterans face. I work in homeless veteran outreach, and I've found cases of returning Gulf, Iraq, and Afghanistan vets out on the streets. Despite the denial of the mainstream media saying these are just exaggerate numbers, one is still too damn many!!! Just in the passed couple years, 2 homeless Vietnam vets have frozen to death under bridges in my home city, Iowa City; while I worked on a documentary about their plight on the streets:
"The Other Side of Patriotism."

There was something very psychological during the production of this piece, as I ground the metal, the hot sparks hissed as they licked cold sweat, it was very calming, even when slivers of hot metal shot like shrapnel, it stuck to hair, not flesh. The sculpture itself was created to be a memorial for those who died by what most do not consider an honorable way for soldiers to die – suicide. For the people who I know and have known about who took this path, it always raises the question, should I have done more to intervene, had I known someone was having trouble coping from war. It is breaking the taboo of discussing suicide in addressing the mental health issues associated with them, that veterans face. Through awareness and dealing with these issues regarding their treatment we can really show them honor and support for what they went through.

During that unpacking process, I’ve had to fight back pain in order to be able to break my silence. I chose to build the sculpture using elements of war, since I found them appropriate for representing a soldier’s life. I stuck primarily with metal media since it was preferable to look “tough as nails”, as most soldiers try to be; yet it conveys the fragility of the mind.

Where the sculpture gets its name is from the shattered drum cymbal that form the fractured skull & pieces of shrapnel that represents TBI (traumatic brain injury). TBI, along with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) are frequently invisible wounds that have gone overlooked, if not misdiagnosed, and where treatment has lagged behind.

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