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RICK MCCARTY, Combat engineer, Army, Vietnam 1971-1971


"POWs in our Minds: Number Two," 2005
In 1999, Rick McCarty of Mt. Vernon, Indiana, turned to art to heal the psychological wounds of combat in Vietnam in 1971. Like many fellow veterans, McCarty suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a condition that causes victims to endure nightmares, flashbacks, emotional numbing, anger and hopelessness as a result of living through traumatic experiences, like war and its aftermath.

Despite three decades of pain, shame and guilt experiences because of the Vietnam War, McCarty finds healing through his poetry and drawings. A former landfill manager, he is an untrained artist who began drawing for the first time at age 49, after a crushing mental breakdown caused by his PTSD symptoms. Unable to read or write since childhood, McCarty suddenly and obsessively began to draw and dictate poems about his feelings and war experiences to his daughter Amy, who recorded them for him.

His evocative pieces were shown in 2000 in a veteran's art exhibition locally, accompanying a traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall visiting Evansville, IL. His works have also been exhibited at the Alexandrian Public Library, Mt. Vernon High School, and the Evansville Museum of Arts and Science.

McCarty draws only occasionally now, but he continues to exhibit his works to educate people about the wounds of combat-induced PTSD and the ongoing emotional price of the Vietnam War.

Many of McCarty's works depict or relate to events, memories and nightmares of a brutal 3-day reconnaissance mission in November 1971, in which a village near Bien Hoa, Vietnam, was destroyed and two of McCarty's close friends, Chico and Wild Bill, were killed. His works also express unresolved grief over the deaths of Mimi, a village child McCarty befriended, and Geronimo, his pet monkey who was shot from his shoulder.

Recurring motifs in his work:

  • Angels and roses - representing love and redemption
  • Twining vines, stems and branches - signifying positive connections such as life or growth, as well as negative concepts such as immobility, entrapment or being stuck in time
  • Demon Face - representing the God of War
  • Weeping Face - representing victims or witnesses of war
  • Soldier/Self - McCarty as grieving remembering soldier-participant, trapped in the story by his nightmares
  • Mickey Mouse - Mimi's doll (sometimes just his hands drawn holding roses.
  • VIEW ARTWORK BY VIETNAM VETERAN RICK MCCARTY IN THE DIGITAL LIBRARY

    READ AN INTERVIEW WITH RICK MCCARTY



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