Bronx veterans’ stories are getting a spotlight.
The Bronx Museum of the Arts is currently hosting an exhibit featuring 10 portraits of veterans by Brooklyn-based but Bronx-born artist Nina Talbot.
Talbot said the goal of the project is to bridge the veteran-civilian gap, and to tell the stories and experiences of the city’s veterans.
“My hope is for more people to be aware of what these people have gone through,” she said.
People often don’t realize how many veterans they encounter in their lives, she noted, or the effects of their experiences. Talbot acknowledged her own ignorance of veterans’ experiences while growing up during the Vietnam War until she began the project.
“This has been a learning experience for me,” she said.
Talbot said her exhibit is not political, but that it tries to call attention to people whose struggles are often overlooked.
“They’re heros regardless of how many medals they’ve gotten,” said Talbot.
Talbot describes her style as narrative, as opposed to realistic. In order to capture the narrative of the veterans’ service and life, Talbot’s process involves interviews that last between two and four hours, along with additional research.
“The interviews are really the centerpiece of the work,” she said.
Alongside a likeness of the subject, Talbot includes other illustrations and symbols from the veterans’ lives before, during, and after their service. Six of the portraits illustrate the experiences of Bronx veterans.
Those veterans include Maria Carrion, who was one of only a few female Marines stationed at Guantanamo Bay during the Cold War.
Another is Leroy Archible, who fought in the Korean War, and has since become a veteran advocate and community activist in the Bronx. Talbot said the kind of work he does is sometimes described as “the Second Service.”
Two more subjects, Carmen Rodriguez and Sandra Roland, run a group for female veterans with post traumatic stress disorder.
Talbot has painted 23 veterans from multiple wars over the past five years, and she plans to continue with it alongside other projects.
“I’ve become so invested in the material,” said Talbot. “I can’t think of anything more significant to address as an artist.”
Exhibit-goers can learn about the subject’s lives beyond Talbot’s paintings. The artworks in the exhibit are accompanied by stories written by Sophie Rand, based on Talbot’s interviews.
There will also be an opportunity to hear the stories Talbot has told straight from the source. The artist’s talk she is hosting on May 23, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the museum will feature a panel of her portrait subjects.
The exhibit is on view through July 6 at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, at 1040 Grand Concourse. For more information visit www.bronxmuseum.org.