Through A Veteran’s Lens

Main Gallery
September 29 – November 12, 2022

Reception: Thursday October 20, 2022

5:30 – 7:00 PM

Art for Lunch (panel & discussion):

November 3, 2022 at noon

Preview: Through a Veteran’s Lens

Through a Veteran’s Lens celebrates artistic expressions of veterans and their loved ones, through photographs. Throughout 2022, workshops led by professional photographers introduced various photographic techniques to the participants. Visit The Arts Center’s Main Gallery to experience the moving, yet relatable work created by veterans from Benton, Lincoln and Linn Counties.

Participating artists: Jae Alexander, Sarah L. Blum, Daniel Carter, Jamie Deverell, Shari Diwata, Chris & Monica Dominski, Dale Donovan, Michael Duncan, Steven G. Elliot, Burr Fancher, Eric J. Frey, Harry (Hal) Ganley, Andrew Giles, Josh Groesz, Carl Hauth, Alex Johnson, Tom Johnson, Herman Krieger, Austin Lally, Taylor Leischman,  James M Long,  Lola M., Steven Mckollip,  Deb Thomas, Crystal White,  Stacy Williams,  Averyel Willis, Lotti Wills (Rosecrans), Bill Wilkinson

By MIKE McINALLY: Special Feature for The Arts Center

Kyle Hatch spends a lot of time thinking about veterans.

Part of that is because of his job as the veterans’ navigator for Samaritan Health Services, where he works to connect veterans with resources, support and advocacy for health and well-being. Part of it is because he’s a veteran of the Marine Corps.

A few years ago, Hatch was thinking about the negative connotations that sometimes go hand-in-hand with veterans: “I think if you go out and ask the community … what are words that come to mind when you think of veterans, they’re going to say ‘war’ and ‘PTSD.’ Hopefully, they would say things like ‘resilience’ and ‘perseverance’ and ‘tough,’ but I think there’s also going to be those negative things.”

Hatch wanted to show a different side. He wanted to show the community the faces of veterans, and to show just a bit of what the world looks like through their eyes.

Years – and one pandemic – later, the result of Hatch’s musings is on view for the community to see. “Through a Veteran’s Lens,” an exhibit at The Arts Center in Corvallis, features photographs and a video taken by veterans stretching from World War II to today.

The exhibit also includes fabric works created by cyanotype, a photographic process that’s almost 200 years old. These works, which include a large collaborative piece, were created by female veterans. More about that later.

Hatch frequently had worked with Sara Krainik, the former coordinator of Samaritan’s ArtsCare Program, on a variety of projects in which veterans worked on crafts projects such as leather tooling and woodburning – a natural fit, since ArtsCare integrates the arts into the process of healing, physically and mentally. So it made sense for Hatch to approach Krainik to discuss his initial thoughts about the “Veteran’s Lens” project. “And Sara was able to rein it in and get it fleshed out,” Hatch said.

Krainik also reached out to her old contacts at The Arts Center to arrange for the exhibit to show in that space. Krainik and Hatch drew up plans for workshops in which veterans would get photography tips from pros. They won a grant to buy camera equipment for the workshops.

And then, the COVID pandemic hit – and the whole project was put on ice for a couple of years.

“Through a Veteran’s Lens” got back on track this year when the organizers issued a call for entries. The workshops, led by professionals such as Mark Ylen and Karl Maasdam, were put back on the calendar and filled up fast. 

And one of the workshops, held at Red Feather Ranch in Kings Valley, turned into a bonding experience for female veterans – and a primer on cyanotype, a photographic printing process that dates back to the mid-19th century.

Red Feather Ranch was founded by Paige Jenkins, a Navy veteran, to serve women veterans: “There’s a lack of community for women veterans,” she said, and they often suffer traumatic experiences different from the ones men experience.  Red Feather Ranch won a grant from the InterHealth Community Network, the coordinated care organization that serves Oregon Health Plan clients in Benton, Linn and Lincoln counties. Through her contacts with the network, which is based at Samaritan Health Services, Jenkins heard about the “Veteran’s Lens” program and was intrigued. But she was looking for something that would specifically serve the women veterans she works with.

That’s when Jennie Castle, the new curator at The Arts Center and a photographer, volunteered to lead a cyanotype session at Red Feather. About a dozen women gathered at the ranch to work on individual fabric pieces using the technique, notable for its shade of cyan blue, which results from its exposure to ultraviolet light.

Then they collaborated on a larger piece using found objects. And that’s when the wind became a collaborator.

“The wind had just started up and you have to be outside for the exposure” to sunlight,” Jenkins recalled. “And we’ve got a giant piece of fabric that we’re trying to hold down. … So the art was about the element of wind, as much as anything, and it was a blast. … We had a lot of fun. There was a lot of laughter.”

The fact that cyanotype is a photographic medium ties the women’s work to the rest of the “Veteran’s Lens” exhibit, but offers a twist as well, Castle said: “It’s definitely interpreting the title of the show differently. I think the cyanotype process and the type of aesthetic it produces actually has a very feminine quality and so I think it was really fitting that we were together with these women collaborating on that project. It was a really meaningful experience for me, and I think the outcome expresses that really well.”

As for the photographs in the show, Erin Gudge (who took over as the director of the ArtsCare program after Krainik retired earlier this year), noted that they generally fell into two camps.

“One side of it is photos that were taken during tours of duty or during wartime,” Gudge said. But the other side features photos shot during “peaceful moments” – a shot of a landscape or a memorial, taken when the veterans were temporarily away from the front or on vacation, or after they returned home. Many of the photos show military colleagues. Some are striking self-portraits.

Castle noted that split as well while she and Gudge worked to hang the show.

“There are some pictures that are documentation of being in live military situations across the decades,” she said. “And then there was a lot of work that seemed to be more contemplative and peaceful once veterans returned home. There’s definitely an interesting juxtaposition of the type of images that we got. But the connecting factor was that they were all made by people who’ve had some form of experience with our military service.”

And that, Kyle Hatch said, is exactly the point.

“That’s what I wanted to get out of this project, is for the community to see,” he said. “There are veterans among us – many, in fact – and they contribute greatly to our society, and they bring a lot of beauty with them.”

The Through a Veteran’s Lens exhibit was made possible by Samaritan Health Services.

Veterans interested in participating in Veterans Outreach Programs, contact Kyle Hatch at