Thursday, November 5, 2015

Healing With Flames

Art by Iraq and Afghanistan Vets at MOG

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 5, 2015

"Nasty Surprise Underfoot," blown glass, sand, boots, collection of Museum of Glass, photo by Duncan Price.
On a shelf in the Museum of Glass lobby stand boots in sand. Underneath lies a glass art rendition of a red, white and blue improvised explosive device. The wall label explaining the art says, “You never know. Step one way and you’re safe. Step another and you’re not. Happenstance. Luck of the draw. A good day or a really, really bad one.”
The art described above is "Nasty Surprise Underfoot" by the Hot Shop Heroes Team and is part of the exhibition Healing With Flames.
In 2013, Museum of Glass introduced Hot Shop Heroes: Healing with Fire. This partnership with the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord serves soldiers with the most complex and devastating physical and mental injuries. Most recently, the classes have expanded to serve soldiers outside of the WTB and veterans. They are offered two eight-week classes in glassblowing and flameworking. The current exhibition features work from students in this past summer’s classes.
“Most of the artists have served a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan at least once, and many have served multiple tours. Healing With Flames gives voice to their personal and shared experiences while being deployed and deals with their feelings about war, military life, and cultural differences,” says a Museum of Glass spokesperson.
An unidentified student in the classes was quoted in the press release: "This class awakened a previously hidden joy in creating things by hand. I was able to actually feel something other than numb."
All works in the exhibition are displayed in the lobby area with detailed wall labels which explain the art, as well as the soldiers’ experiences in war and back home in the classes.
Among the more moving pieces are “The Final Goodbye,” the traditional memorial to soldiers lost in battle, with boots, helmet and dog tags, and a rifle made of clear glass and stuffed with shell casings, and “Taste of Blood and Tears,” an abstract red glass teardrop inside a blue glass teardrop representing the tragic loss of life and limbs.  Both of these are collaborative efforts from the Hot Shop Heroes Team.
Another piece by the team that is well executed and fascinating is “Mortal Combat,” a sculpted glass scorpion and a sculpted glass camel spider facing each other in battle in the sand. The label explains: “As a way to relieve boredom in the desert, some soldiers would put a camel spider and a scorpion in a box and the creatures fight to the death.”
MOG spokesperson Alex Carr told me there have been more than 160 participants in the program so far, with more to come as it is an ongoing program.
“Hot Shop Heroes is absolutely one of the most important and life-changing programs presented by Museum of Glass,” says Bonnie Wright, curator of education and community engagement. “Healing in Flames presents an opportunity for the public to learn about this amazing program and the overwhelming positive effect art has on healing.”
The program is sponsored by the Joint Base Lewis McChord Office of Morale, Wellness and Recreation; Northwest Military; KUOW-FM; and The Ranger/Volcano.
Healing With Flames, Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through March 2016, $12-$15, members free, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock Street Tacoma.

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