When Sanford “Sandy” Bier was an Army medic during the Korean War, he escaped the carnage that exploded around him by doodling whimsical cartoons depicting the life of his fellow soldiers.
One shows a grimacing GI, who has recently returned from R&R leave and is receiving an antibiotic injection.
A medical officer stooping behind him — his wide grin oozing schadenfreude — rams an enormous needle into the reddened bottom of the soldier, who white-knuckles the belt of his lowered trousers. The soldier has thrown back his head in cartoonish pain, his mouth agape in mid “Yeowee!”
“The principal objective of the center was to help veterans adjust themselves through the creative process,” center director Victor D’Amico wrote in a 1948 announcement of a MoMA show depicting paintings, sculpture and other artworks of participating veterans.
And more than a decade ago, as American troops began returning from combat in Iraq, the Department of Veterans Affairs began boosting art programs as a way of helping former soldiers who struggled with verbal therapy to deal with depression, suicidal thoughts or other symptoms of PTSD.
Supporters of veteran artists said that because fewer than 1 percent of Americans today have served in the military — versus 12 percent during World War II, from 1941 to 1945 — artistic expression is a rare opportunity to share the often untold perceptions of people who have fought in war.
“We shouldn’t just appreciate veterans, we should appreciate the whole person and all their experiences,” said Jude Schanzer, director of programming at the East Meadow Public Library, and an organizer of an exhibition of veterans’ artwork there. The exhibition of 36 pieces will include works by Bier and Jacobs.
She said her father, Oscar Schanzer, who died in 1996, had been among the first Allied troops ashore during the D-Day invasion of Omaha Beach as a member of the Signal Corps. But he had been unwilling to share his wartime memories, and spoke only once to her about it. He told her of watching helplessly as a soldier struggling toward safety was cut down on Omaha Beach by friendly fire, as Oscar Schanzer desperately radioed for Allied troops to stop shooting.
“My father dealt with it by not talking about it,” she said. “But he loved to sing. It made him happy.”
Veterans art show
An exhibition of artwork by area veterans opened Nov. 4 at the East Meadow Public Library, 1886 Front St. The show runs through Nov. 29.
For more information, call 516 794-2570.
Their war stories
Art has intrigued and sustained other veterans featured this year in LI Life:
WWII vet Arthur Bonne, April 9, 2017
“I’d never been more than 150 miles from home in my life, and here I was in India. I wanted to see everything. It was quite a feeling.”
WWI vet Sal Cillis, July 30, 2017
“We exercise a little in the morning. They take us out marching in the afternoon, give a few lessons in military matters and so ends the days.”
WWII vet Creighton Berry, Sept. 10, 2017
“I was drawing from high school. It was something I picked up as a child from looking at his [cartoonist E. Simms Campbell] work.”