The Syracuse Veterans Creative Arts Competition, a large exhibit on display at Syracuse University, showcases a variety of artworks, poems and essays, and performances on video.
Indeed, visitors to the National Veteran’s Resource Center Gallery will encounter everything from Dale Fiegl’s abstract acrylic, “Circles of Time,” to “Wild Mushrooms,” a wood sculpture by Michael Cicon, from Tammy Johnson’s beadwork creation, “Turquoise Dolphin, to “Prayers for the Ukraine,” a mixed-media piece by Laura Perry.
They, and other members of an artists’ roster numbering more than 40, receive healthcare from the Syracuse Veterans Administration Medical Center.
The local Veterans creative-arts competition, now in its 27th year, is part of a national competition involving VA hospitals across the country, intended to enhance participants’ emotional, physical and social well being.
The Syracuse show, a juried event, is expansive in terms of media and styles.
It embraces Larry Sobolewski’s acrylic, “Sunset,” with its explosive orange color, as well as Norman D. Roth’s fine oil, “Uncle Bill,” which portrays an elder. It’s a large, expressive work.
Elsewhere, John Hunt’s acrylic provides a retrospective on the U.S. Coast Guard, integrating six images which directly reference the Coast Guard. His work co-exists with Raymond Farrington’s watercolor depicting a white schooner just off shore at Woodsholm, Massachusetts, and “Pluto’s Revenge (Invasion of Mouse Town),” a mixed-media artwork by John Paul Body. That piece presents a cartoon-like scenario, in which flying saucers fire on targets on earth including a mouse in a motor vehicle.
In addition, the exhibit presents Richard Rodriguez’s raw, emotional self-portrait, “Me”; Farrington’s sparse oil portraying two peppers; and Sobolewski’s monochromatic drawing, “Bayou.”
There are 17 photos on display, and they also reflect varied styles. Bruce Phelps’ black-and-white image documents an abandoned barn, while Corey O’Neil’s color photograph, “Off Duty,” captures a chair set against a beach in total darkness. Only the chair is visible.
A third photo, “Hinckley Milky Way” demonstrates Nic Phelps’ ability to portray a panoramic scene. The work captures a sky lit by stars and a body of water, presumably a lake. The image shifts from shore to shore.
The exhibit presents assemblages and needlework compositions, too.
In “Love Heals,” Marc Mossman merges metal letters spelling out words of healing, a key, and a small photo of a German Sheppard. It’s well done as is “Altered Time,” Rebecca Jones’ assemblage. She’s placed photos of elderly men taken decades ago on a small wood piece that may or may not be a cabinet. The work challenges viewers, and that’s certainly part of its appeal.
Jeannette Frederick, meanwhile, has created a large quilt, “Tree of Life.” Its centerpiece features a tree shape; inside it, there’s a small depiction of a crucifixion. Many viewers will think of Jesus Christ. Like any artwork, “Tree of Life” is subject to interpretation.
The exhibition is being staged in a fairly large gallery space, making it possible to present multiple works by several artists. For example, Joseph Hopkins has created a monochromatic drawing portraying film director Spike Lee that is pretty much a straight-up figurative piece. Yet, Hopkins also has a wildly imaginative acrylic, “Jeans And Shirt C.T,” on display. The clothes aren’t hung on a gallery wall but instead appear on a mannequin. The artist has painted on the clothes instead of a canvas.
Not far from Hopkins’ acrylic, a table contains binders and a laptop computer. Each binder holds poems such as “Have You Heard” by Gregory Mendoza, Lee Savidge’s “Why Be a Soldier,” and “Closeted (Pride)” by Richard Rodriguez. There are also several essays, one being “The COVID Experience via Childbirth” by Chelsey Gardner.
On the computer, it’s possible to view several videos: Lester Feldman on piano playing an instrumental version of “Imagine”; Eric Haynes performing “The Belle Song,” a country-style tune he wrote.
Do not miss Richard Rodriguez’s powerful monologue. He speaks of how “a single decree of fate” divides people who are homeless from folks living in an apartment or house.
As mentioned earlier in this review, the exhibit encompasses artists working in various media. They also have diverse fine-arts experience. For some, this is their first involvement in an exhibition. Others have fairly extensive arts backgrounds.
Dale Fiegl, for example, has shown his artworks not only in local venues such as the Liverpool Public Library but also in museums across the U.S. and other countries. He sees the exhibit as an avenue for honoring veterans’ creativity.
Lee Savidge’s writing experience spans classes at the Downtown Writers Center, part of the YMCA, and longtime involvement in the Syracuse Veterans Writing Group, affiliated with Syracuse University.
In 2017, SVWG’s anthology, Weight of My Armor, was published by Parlor Press. Savidge had two pieces in that book. Three of his poems were included in a second anthology, What We See on Our Journey, published by Willet Press.
The exhibition, which is open to the public, is on display through Dec. 2.
The gallery is on the first floor of the National Veterans Resource Center, also known as the Daniel and Gayle D’Aniello Building, at 101 Waverly Ave., on the SU campus.
There’s no admission charge. The venue is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, noon to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, and on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carl Mellor wrote about visual arts for the Syracuse New Times from 1994 to 2019. He continues to cover artists and exhibitions in Central New York.