HUDSON – With the Fourth of July spirit still in the air, Peg's Gallery is exhibiting “Homecoming,” featuring military paintings by local artist Victoria Lewis.
Peg's Gallery, 10 West Streetsboro St., is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. “Homecoming” will be on view through Aug. 13.
Victoria said she started doing military paintings in 2010 and shares her perspective on how to be an army wife through her work. Her husband, First Lt. Zachary Lewis, served in the 82nd Airborne from 2010 to 2014 and went to Afghanistan in 2012. The paintings of Victoria greeting him are from 2012 when he returned home.
“While Zach was in the army, you're filled with many unknowns and separations,” said Victoria, who is an Avon Lake resident. “While you're waiting for your soldier, you're holding your breath. You're not sure what will happen.”
She said the painting with her hands up blocking his face was personal.
“I wanted a private moment to see his eyes,” Victoria said.
The paintings capture the first moments spent between a soldier and spouse when they are reunited, she said.
“It was amazing. I felt like I could breathe again,” Victoria said. “There is love and relief in that reunion.”
Other paintings include friends from the army who built strong relationships from their common bond.
Even though people in a platoon come from different backgrounds, they are united as a team, and the spouses are united in support for the soldiers and for other spouses, she said.
“You can choose to focus on fear and worry or togetherness and love and taking care of each other,” Victoria said.
The background colors of red and pink represent love, she said. The paratroopers' paintings capture an iconic image for the 82nd Airborne and the jump is a symbol of freedom.
One of the paintings features Linda Mills kissing her husband, Andrew, in 2010 as he returns home from deployment. Staff Sgt. Andrew Mills served from 2004-16 and is medically retired after being wounded by a roadside bomb in 2012.
Linda said she did not know about the painting before arriving and seeing it hanging front and center in the gallery.
“I love the bold red background,” Linda said. “It’s amazing.”
Melissa Kahlman took photos of her children watching their father, Capt. Jake Kahlman, at Fort Bragg jumping from a plane for training in the 82 Airborne Division. Victoria painted the scene in “Daddy!”
“Dad's job is hard, dangerous and I took them to the field to show them what he did,” Melissa said. “Now, every time we get on a plane, the kids ask if we're jumping.”
The art show focuses on the most beautiful part of military life, Melissa said. It captures the part worth remembering.
“The last six months of struggle seem like nothing with the homecoming,” Melissa said. “You can't forget the impact of this on your life.”
Peg's Foundation supports mental health issues and the arts, said veteran and Foundation President Rick Kellar.
When Kellar saw the painting of the couple kissing hanging in the gallery, he wasn't sure what it meant from his personal military viewpoint.
“From a soldier's perspective, I'm glad I made it back in one piece, but what about the spouse?” asked Kellar.
He pointed at the painting of a couple reunited. “This is what it is. I never understood in all my deployments there was someone waiting for me to come back.”
Lewis shows the viewpoint of the spouse waiting, worrying, and finally relieved when a soldier returns home.
More information can be found at www.pegsfoundation.org/art-gallery
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org