PORTAGE PARK — The National Veterans Art Museum on Veterans Day unveiled its new main exhibit, a collection of illustrated prints by famed author and WWII veteran Kurt Vonnegut.
Titled "Vonnegut's Odyssey," the exhibit features dozens of abstract illustrations and self-portraits that try to capture the isolating experience of returning to society after serving in combat.
Curator Ash Kyrie, who served in Iraq in 2003 as a serviceman in the U.S. Army, said he came across the prints several years ago and had an immediate urge to "show them to the world."
"When I came home, I had all these kinds of societal inconsistencies, where I just couldn't really mesh," Kyrie said. "And I didn't know that was something common that a lot of veterans dealt with. And this art just screams all those feelings out to me."
The illustrations are crude and distressing, with some showing the author covered in eyes or squinting in despair.
One work, titled "Trio," made a heavy impact on Cesar Ruvalcaba, a mural artist who was deployed in Somalia and Haiti with the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
"It shows this whole range of emotions, like you never really know how something is going to make you feel in any given moment," Ruvalcaba said of the painting, showing a morphing range of faces all attached to the same head.
"When you've seen atrocities or been through trauma, you have to do something to release it, so you can move on," Ruvalcaba said. "That's what art can do for veterans, and that's what I see here."
On top of the 36 prints, the exhibit also features a desk with some of Vonnegut's original manuscripts from the novel "Slaughterhouse V," along with a replica of the typewriter the author used.
Visitors are also invited to draw an asterisk along a wall of the museum, invoking a symbol Vonnegut took for himself in the introduction of the novel "Breakfast of Champions."
'Vonnegut's Odyssey" will remain in the National Veterans Art Museum's main gallery until May 2017.
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