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Talented troops: Local vets showcase self-made art at library’s pop-up gallery

Private Picasso: Veteran George Robertson showed off a collage he made at a pop-up art show that featured soldier’s creations at the Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch on Wednesday.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

They’re patriotic painters!

A group of deft-handed veterans showcased their artistic creations at a pop-up gallery at Brooklyn Public Library’s central branch on Wednesday, which featured pieces they made as part of a therapy program that allows soldiers who went to hell and back for their country to express themselves when words fail, according to a serviceman.

“It helps with being able to express things that you normally wouldn’t talk about, or are even willing to admit to yourself,” said Brooklyn-born Eugene Gallo, who lives on bucolic Staten Island and fought in the First Gulf War.

Gallo said that presenting his hand-made bird feeder at the show allowed him to address experiences that he kept secret for decades, even among his closest companions.

“That day, each artist had the option of speaking about their piece if they wanted to, and it just flowed out of me,” he said. “I spoke of things I’ve never spoken about out loud before, to family, or friends.”

Vets who served in conflicts including wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, the Persian Gulf, and Vietnam participated in the event, exhibiting artworks in mediums such as photography, wood, collage, painting, and drawing.

And the pieces, all of which soldiers created in the Brooklyn Veterans Association-run therapy program, also offered civilians a window into military life — a culture that has shrunk to include just one percent of Americans, according to an art therapist who worked with the patriots.

“When I grew up, everyone was a veteran, and then, little by little, American society changed,” said Beryl Brenner. “This event was about historically recording who the veterans of our time are.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
For the birds: Eugene Gallo exhibited a bird feeder he crafted as part of an art-therapy program run by the Brooklyn Veterans Association.
Photo by Caleb Caldwell

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