The Talk On was created as a hub for veterans to reach out directly to civilians with creative content in order to bridge the cultural gap between us. But, there are already some “civilians” that have a direct view of our experience and exist permanently inside that gap…military families. While they don’t join us in combat, they experience the constant uprooting of reassignments, the daily life on military installations, and the emotional upheaval of deployment and occasionally, of loss. There may be no better conduit to help translate veterans’ ideas and experiences to a wider civilian audience than these family members, and the work of one of them has caught our eye. While Sarah Rossetti’s story starts on an Air Force base and continues across the world, it was one tiny bar in Guam and her exposure to military life inside and beyond its doors that launched a new body of work we’re excited to share here. Sarah took the time to answer some questions and is the first military-family contributor to our site. We hope to hear from many more.
TO: Where/when did your family serve? What was it like to grow up in the military community?
Sarah: My dad was an American in the Air force when he got stationed in Germany and met my German mother. We moved every two or three years until my parents divorced in early 2000. My mother then decided to move me and my sisters to Guam where I spent a good portion of my life. I feel lucky that I got to live and experience so many different places and cultures. How many people can say they lived in the Azores and got to see a legit bull fight? I had no idea what that lifestyle would develop into, but now I see that I have the ability to see from a lot of different perspectives rather than being closed minded and unaware of those around me.
TO: How did art come into your life and become a passion/career?
Sarah: I’ve been drawing since I could hold a damn pencil. I only started painting about ten years ago. For me art is this thing that I have to do. It can be two o clock in the a.m. and suddenly I’ll get some idea and I have to go do it. Makes for very little sleep. Ha, I am a servant to it.
TO: How did you come to have a military audience? Was it intenional or just happenstance?
Sarah: My mother owns a bar in Guam, a lot of military people come through. I got brave and started painting their stories. I wanted to somehow say “hey, I see what you see”. I know it’s not the same as experiencing it directly, but it was a way to reach out and help show that people cared and were interested in understanding each other. After I finished some work, I’d just hang it up in the bar and word slowly got around that the bartender was the one doing the pieces. I started getting commission requests and it’s grown from there. I’ve had the honor of taking some people’s most personal stories and creating a real piece of art for them.
TO: What’s your favorite (or most important) piece you’ve done and why?
Sarah: Man this is stupid hard to answer. They are all my favorites. All of them come from something that means something to me or them. There are a few that are extra special to me, but what happens at the bar, stays at the bar. Cheers!
TO: What misconceptions do other civilians have about the military, and what would you share with them that could surprise them?
Sarah: I had a good buddy visiting, and he had a friend who tagged along. The kid was struggling with not feeling bad about the things he had done during his time overseas. He told me that a lot of civilians around him made him feel terrible that he didn’t feel terrible. Like something was wrong with him. He was ripping his own mind apart wondering if he was in the wrong. I asked if he felt guilty, and he said no. I said good, then you’re fine. There’s an idea that guys coming out are either damaged or they’ve been asked to do terrible things against their will. In reality, it seems like most knew exactly what they were headed for and they have every reason to be proud of seeking out that dangerous shit. In short, for civilians reading this, don’t make assumptions or push your worldview on vets. Instead, be someone with open curiosity and willingness to look beyond your own experiences, you’ll be surprised, we have a lot to learn from one another.
TO: What role do you think art will have in bridging the military-civilian divide that’s arisen during these long wars? Do you want to play a part in that?
Sarah: Fuck yeah I’d love to play some sort of role in bridging the gap between the two. I hope that by being a civilian and showcasing some of the epic things I’ve come across that I can invite viewers from all walks of life to maybe stop for a moment. Forget titles, and just remember we are all humans struggling through a thing called life. We might not have the same experiences, but we will all come across death, love, frustration, loneliness, doubt… all that shit that makes us wonderfully human. Every one of us is looking for our slice of happy, it’d be a lot easier if we remembered that we do share a lot of common ground. Get along nerds! We only have one planet right now.
TO: How do you envision your work can accomplish that?
Sarah: I don’t know yet. You are literally catching me in my first year of giving my art a serious push. I am making it all up. All I know for sure, is that I am able to produce pieces that means something very personal to both sides of the fence. I know we can learn a lot from one another. I know that because I am a product of that. So, if a piece of art can get the knuckleheads to come together and share in a similar response, then maybe we can begin to see similarities in one another again and build our bridge.
Sarah Rossetti is an emerging artist whose roots go all the way across the globe and back to an Air Force base in Germany. A civilian with more military and travel experience than many actual vets, her art has an opportunity to help close the divide. Check out her work on her instagram page @invader_grrr and hit her up for commissions!