Art From the Heart

To Joseph Fernelli, Dressed to Kill means a lot more than wearing impressive fashions—it’s the name of his sculpture, a wooden bust with a helmut of brass shell casings.

The sculpture, his reaction to his experience as a 21-year-old helicopter gunner in Vietnam, is on display in Chicago’s National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, 1801 S. Indiana Ave., the only musuem in the world that focuses on war from personal perspectives. The 3-year-old museum houses more than 700 works of art representing every medium in a three-story warehouse. It features creative expressions by artists from six countries who were soldiers in the Vietnam War.

In 1980 artists and volunteers formed the Vietnam Veterans Art Group and found themselves struggling with galleries and museums to exhibit art that many considered controversial. The exhibit began traveling in 1981 after a temporary exhibit at a smaller gallery proved successful. Gradually, more artists have added their work to the collection.

Twenty years later, the exhibit remains the only fine-art collection of its kind in the world. It has visited 15 states and 51 art shows. The museum has also added several Northern Vietnamese and Viet Cong artifacts and attracts visitors from 31 countries.

Ron Rencher began painting at age 12, then went on to further his studies at Southern Utah State College, where he received a bachelor’s degree in fine art. After spending eight years managing the family ranch, Rencher turned the operation over to his brother and set out to build a career in art. Now based in Taos, New Mexico, Rencher is a signature member of the Plein Air Painters of America. His paintings have taken awards in juried exhibitions across the United States and can be found in a number of public, private and corporate collections. Rencher is represented by American Legacy Gallery (Kansas City), Greenhouse Gallery of Fine Art (San Antonio, Texas), Shriver Gallery (Taos, New Mexico) and Beaver Creek Fine Art (Beaver Creek, Colorado).

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