Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center
Augusta Veteran showcases art at Charlie Norwood VA
April 18, 2017
|Charlie "Sgt. Crash" Kee poses with his work inside the Uptown campus of the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center April 14. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo by Seth McDougal)|
By Mark Karmin
AUGUSTA, Georgia -- Charlie “Sgt. Crash” Kee is getting to opportunity to showcase his artistic talent in the halls of Augusta’s Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, where the U.S. Army Veteran’s paintings will hang until April 21. Kee is a lifelong resident of Augusta, long time Veteran, and is now a senior at Augusta University.
“I tell my friends that in 1971 I won the lottery. Well, it was the draft lottery … At first I extended my first six years to seven, then 10, then 20, and by the time it was 30 my wife just asked me ‘are you ever going to get out?” Kee recalled.
Kee’s passion is for comedic art, the kind showcased in the Uptown hospital display. He said he has always looked to his surroundings for humor, and his military service in Iraq furnished him with a wealth of stories to tell through caricatures, and cartoons. Through them, he gives vignettes of his life, and the lives of some of his fellow soldiers.
“It was like being part of a family,” Kee said, “and sometimes I’d scratch down a cartoon with nothing but a few colored pencils. Every painting tells a story about something that really happened. Some of the details may be a little different, but they’re all true.”
One of Kee’s paintings depicts an officer with a bandit mask and gun holding up a concrete truck and saying “this is my concrete now!” Each of Kee’s paintings has a story like this; subtly accentuating the natural humor of already-absurd situations.
“In real life, he didn’t have a gun, but our captain was tired of having civilian contractors commandeer concrete trucks meant for us,” Kee remembered. “One day he got fed up and decided to divert some of their trucks to see how they liked it.”
|Some of Kee's artwork hanging on the walls at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs photo by Seth McDougal)|
When he was younger, Kee wanted to produce a syndicated cartoon strip. That plan never came to fruition, but the process helped him grow. “I submitted a couple of cartoon strips for syndication. I thought I could get syndicated and make a lot of money. But it’s not about the money. And as I realized that, I think doing the cartoons made my heart better.”
Bob Frasier, chief of voluntary service for Charlie Norwood, helped bring Kee’s work to the medical center. About 70 people attended a showing at the Uptown campus April 15, so Frasier felt like having Kee’s art hanging on the walls for a bit was a good thing.
“It’s always a pleasure to showcase the work Veterans in this forum. The response from people viewing the work was great and we hope to do more things like this in the future,” Frasier said.
Kee doesn’t want to have his intentions mistaken. His paintings are not meant to glorify war, nor to mock soldiers. Instead, he hopes his art gives soldiers and Veterans the opportunity to forget about their troubles for a while.
“I’d never make light of war. War is horrible. It’s much more about taking the bad parts of war and not really emphasizing that for a while, and giving something funny a chance to shine through instead,” Kee said.
Kee also said that his military service has added to the subjects he covers through art, which now includes advocacy for disabled Veterans.
“Before becoming a Veteran I probably wouldn’t have thought too much about it, but now I’ve had art projects where I’ve done sculptures of Veterans in wheelchairs and a subtitle ‘please consider Wounded Warriors.’”
Kee graduates from Augusta University in May with a bachelor of fine arts, and is very excited to have his art showcased at the VA.
“I’m really grateful for the chance to do this, and I’m thankful to the faculty at Augusta University who encouraged me to do it.”
(Karmin is a volunteer at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta, Ga. For more information on how to become a volunteer, go to www.volunteer.va.gov)