CARROLLWOOD — U.S. Marine Corps and Florida Army National Guardsman veteran Gabriel Munoz-Calene likes to visit thrift stores and search for old paintings that fall under the public domain. He takes an image of the painting into PowerPoint and creates a design that he re-creates in acrylic on the painting.
As a new lawyer, Munoz-Calene uses art as a means of relaxation.
“I like to research, digitally remix and adapt old paintings,” he said. “It’s such a busy, hectic world, so painting lets me slow down and relax.”
His featured work, “Restoration of Girl with a Broom,” took about a month from finding the painting, to designing it, to painting it over the course of a couple of weekends.
His unique creative vision is one of 70 works of art of 35 active duty, reservist or retired military men and women who will be showcased in Carrollwood Cultural Center’s Star Spangled Art beginning Saturday.
U.S. Navy reservist Jeaniel Image’s voice breaks as she describes her sculpture, “Butterfly Effect,” bearing two butterflies.
“This is a tribute to my kids because even though I was prepared to be in the military, I don’t think I was prepared what that meant as a mother in the military,” she said. “The significance of the butterfly is the concept that no matter how much I leave, I’ll always come back to them.”
A U.S. Navy reservist since 2002, Image also designed a self-portrait collage made of torn paper representing her experiences, the places she visited and the people she met.
Sponsored by Operation Helping Hand and the Military Officers Association of America, Tampa Chapter (MOAA), Stuart Dwork, in conjunction with past center curator Gainor Roberts, is credited with being the mastermind and heart behind this special art show.
From carvings and sculptures to pastels, and acrylic paintings to paintings with three dimensional elements, the subject matter ranges from very personal self-portraits to landscapes, abstract art, and edgier subjects particular to a soldier’s experience. Each piece means something significant to the artist.
“I get emotional when I look at the artwork in this show as it’s coming in as these are the people that put their lives out on the line to protect institutions like ours,” said Nancy Kirkpatrick, the center curator. “This is what they’re fighting for — our ability to express ourselves and perpetuate our culture.
“What’s unique about Carrollwood Cultural Center is we exhibit artists from our own society, in our own time, about us and how we feel about things. The artwork is created by soldiers who have a unique experience that we don’t have. Every brush stroke is a culmination of that person’s experiences and how they perceive life. It documents life in our time. This is such a powerful show.”
Owner of Vincenti Studios — and retired from the U.S. Navy — Len Vincenti created a pastel painting called “MIA.” He hopes the people who view it will walk away feeling “that my art is pleasing to the eye and there’s hidden surprises if you look long enough.”
Vincenti pointed to one such hidden message in the glass enclosed pastel work.
“There’s a missing star on the flag,” he said.
Ellen Hart, retired U.S. Air Force, used actual letters from home in her three-dimensional paintings — “Letter from Home” and “Mail Call.” Both were created to honor military serving overseas.
“I intentionally left the letter illegible so the viewer can project whatever message they want, be it a letter from their wife, their sweetheart, their mother,” she said. “I left it open to depict how important it is that they get letters from home.”
Ellen explained why she chose to add 3-D to her paintings.
“I do 3-D because I thought it would make it interesting and I received such positive feedback. It’s fun,” she said. “It’s different and it literally gives my painting another dimension. Instead of lying flat on the canvas, it jumps out at you.”
A free opening reception will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday with entertainment and light catering. Awards will be presented for first, second and third place, as well as two honorable mentions. Featured are local authors J.M. Taylor (“Lost Key,” “Desert Winds,” “Gulf Winds,” “Missing Sticks,” “One Stick and a Waco”) and Sally Ling (“Who Killed Leno and Louise”)and music by Carrollwood Community Chorus.
“Art helps us experience historical events,” Kirkpatrick said. “A show like this will one day be our documentation of who our defenders were and their love for our country.”
Star Spangled Art runs through Dec. 23. To learn more visit www.carrollwoodcenter.org.