Jerry Frech, a Radford University Master of Fine Arts candidate and U.S. Air Force veteran, is currently showing "The Journals of Artist/Airman Jerry Frech" in a national exhibition that celebrates America's military service members.
The exhibition, "Esprit de Corps," opened in the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago on Veterans Day with artwork that traces the processes and roles of therapeutic art and expression in understanding of the real impact of war.
Frech is one of nine featured artists in the exhibition, all of whom are veterans of the armed forces with service in conflicts such as Vietnam, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the war on terror. "Esprit de Corps" is taken from the French and, in military contexts, refers to group morale or the spirit of camaraderie among soldiers.
Frech deployed to Iraq in 2006 as a senior airman. During his time in the desert, Frech rediscovered his love for art, a passion he had developed when he was young but never pursued. The resulting journals are a visual log of his experiences overseas.
"It was in these journals that I started to develop my skills again, it was in these journals that I made a decision to go back to school to study art and it was in these journals that I rediscovered who I am," Frech said. "These journals mark a very significant turning point in my life. Despite the dark times and troubles, in the end it was worth it. I found me."
Although he is studying painting at Radford University, the four journals Frech has on exhibition are full of pen and pencil sketches which document a soldier's life at war. It is an honor to have art displayed alongside other veterans and exhibits like this show people the healing power of art, Frech said.
"My journals are a testament to that ability," Frech said. "My journals saved me."
"Esprit de Corps" is on display at the National Veterans Art Museum through August 2014. For more information on Frech's art work, visit his studio website.
The Radford University Master of Fine Arts degree prepares professional artists and graphic designers by allowing them to concentrate in disciplines such as painting, drawing, photography, graphic design, jewelry, and metalworking and ceramics. The program features small classes, opportunities to work closely with professors and an accomplished, international faculty.