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San Marcos Art Center honors veterans and military through November showcase

The+Veterans+Art+Showcase+is+installed+at+the+San+Marcos+Art+Center%2C+Monday+Oct.+31%2C+2022.

The Veterans’ Art Showcase is installed at the San Marcos Art Center, Monday Oct. 31, 2022.

Trigger Warning: This article contains discussion of suicide.
An eclectic mix of photographs, sculptures, jewelry and paintings lines the walls of the San Marcos Art Center. Each individual work of art has a unique emotion behind it, but they have one thing in common. All of the almost 20 different creators featured in the showcase are veterans or on active duty.
Nancy Brown, director of the art center, envisions the Veterans’ Art Showcase as a way to repay them for their service and give a platform to those who have served. By giving local veteran artists an audience, she is able to reward and recognize them in a meaningful way.
“I think it’s important to recognize the service that they provided to the country,” Brown said. “It’s all very well and good to say ‘oh, thank you for your service,’ but this is a little more concrete.”
Valarie Seelye, a second-year master’s student studying secondary education, is one of the artists participating in the showcase. She joined the Air Force in 2017 and was on active duty for three years. Now, she is a member of the Air National Guard until next spring. Her work for the show combines watercolor and LED lights to show a mermaid posing in front of glowing water.
Seelye loves to work with any medium that is not digital and is drawn to work with physical mediums because she loves the process of creating art with tangible things. Not only do the textures of the mediums calm her anxiety, but they also spark her creativity and inspire the direction in which her art goes.
“I have been learning a lot from art materials rather than learning how to be an artist,” Seelye said. “I have been trying to do what feels good to make and I like the sensory experience of the materials in my hand.”
Seelye believes that the Veterans’ Art Showcase helps humanize them in the public’s eye. In her eyes, people have narrow views of the personalities of veterans. Even though they have all served, she said everyone still has wildly different beliefs and personalities.
To her, the showcase is a way to show all of these different personalities to the public.
“We’re just regular people who have different interests,” Seelye said. “I’m not all about putting on some more paint and to go back into the field. I paint with watercolors and I have interests that aren’t all just hardcore military things.”
Another artist involved is Dan Gamez, a Texas State art senior. As a 58-year-old veteran who served in intelligence in Europe during the Cold War, Gamez came to Texas State to get a degree in art so he can teach it to children.
Gamez’s current focus is abstract painting. His technique involves strategically pouring primary colored paint onto a canvas and then using toothpicks and torches to modify the painting. His goal with his paintings is to spread happiness and bring something beautiful to the world.
“The pouring is so beautiful,” Gamez said. “It doesn’t mean anything. All it is is color. No message. Nothing political. Nothing religious. Just color.”
Gamez wants to make people happy through his art because art has saved his life. Eight years ago Gamez was bedridden with severe back problems and he lost the will to live. This culminated in his attempt to die by suicide.
His life turned around six years ago when he joined Veteran Team Recovery Integrative Immersion Process (Vet TRIPP), an organization centered on improving veterans’ lives. Through this program, he found the medical help he needed and was introduced to art when he signed up for a college-level art class hosted by Vet TRIIP.
Now, he makes art to move forward in life.
Gamez creates art that makes him happy, switching between styles just to keep the creative process fresh. He creates with the purpose of producing something beautiful.
“When it comes to art, I go from when it started,” Gamez said. “I won’t go back. I don’t want to go to the dark. I want to keep on going to the light.”
Gamez’s dream in life is to teach art to disadvantaged children. Art has given him a newfound hope, and he wants to spread that hope. He believes that if he was able to become an artist in his 50s anyone can become one.
“To finally go back to college to get my second degree in art to teach art gave me hope and gave me direction,” Gamez said. “The thought of suicide is so far gone. That’s what art did to me. That I never thought I could do it, but I can do it.”
Gamez sees the Veterans’ Art Showcase as an important stepping stone for artists trying to get into galleries. Most galleries only want to show artists that they think will sell. If an artist is able to sell work at the veterans’ showcase, it increases their chance of being able to get into more galleries in the future.
Brown believes that giving veteran artists a place to show their work is extremely important because it validates their art. For many artists, their work is an expression of their emotions, so having people see their art validates what they are doing and motivates them to create more.
“I think it [having artwork shown] is validating,” Brown said. “Because that creative urge is universal. I think having your expression recognized really feeds the soul.”
The San Marcos Art League will host its Veterans’ Art Showcase throughout the month of November. The center is located on The Square at 117 N Guadalupe Street, and is open Wednesday through Friday and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is also open on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A reception for the showcase will be on Nov. 11 at 5 p.m. at the center.

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