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Biss-Grayson, Dante

“Spent 12 years overseas with active duty and Dept of Defense Contracting. Part of Crash, Fire, Rescue teams. Trained in Emergency Management, Chem Warfare, base defense, search and rescue, heavy rescue, aircraft rescue, and inspection. Multiple tours of duty in austere locations. Many missions that involved traumatic events, car crashes, helo crashes, lots of death, being shot at with guns, mortars, and missiles. Before the military studied art in Holland, upon return to the US after working, diagnosed with PTSD, very difficult time transitioning. 22 suicides a day from veterans really impacted me. Used knives to self-harm. Used art to externalize the pain and convey the traumas. Treatment did not help much, but painting has made great progress. Paintings completed with knives. 22 strokes for each veteran lost, abstract images of how I felt for each trauma. The process of making the art, action paintings, new post-war abstract expressionism has helped.

Upon painting again, he found that, when he had to hide all the knives in his house, he could use the same knives to paint with. The series of abstract expressionist painting was the best platform to try to convey the daily torment of images that bombard him. The large format abstract paintings convey the paint and emotion of the war and the daily struggle of living with PTSD. The therapeutic outcome of this process has been beneficial, while agonizing, the work takes an emotional toll, it is evident that transferring the imagery and emotion onto canvas has brought about a content life for the artist. While true, he always remains in the calm moments before and after a storm, while in the studio, the storm of emotion from the war is challenged, analyzed, and expressed.

This work eases the acuteness and externalizes a moment and lessens the brunt. Chips away at the traumas a whole, and give me a platform to face it.”

Episode: Dante Biss-Grayson – Veterans and Art Therapy Via a Connection to the Land