"An artistic salute to military members and their families is at the heart of Christine McKee's show opening at Metro Galleries. "On the Homefront: Military Families" is a collection of 17 works, including a special tribute to her father, William McKee, who passed away three years ago.
"Because it's the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I did one honoring soldiers in World War II. It's a print of my dad. I used a photograph of him when he was in the Navy in World War II."
Much of the exhibit focuses on how much military families sacrifice while supporting loved ones serving far from home. McKee saw the difficulties firsthand with her daughter, who has been married to a Marine for three years.
"It was so close to me, opposed to reading about it. Her husband is deployed frequently. They've moved three times in the last three years.
"I talked to some of her friends who are also military spouses. I found they're really, really strong people and I think they have to be to deal with this on a daily basis."
McKee said her painting "The Entire Family Serves" best reflects the show's theme. The work depicts a number of figures, soldiers as well as family members.
"It's not just the person that is in the military. It is also their family that is having to deal with it. People normally look at the soldier, but it is the whole family."
The struggles of returning soldiers and veterans -- including post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, depression and feelings of isolation -- are also addressed in the show.
Depicting social issues in art is something McKee said she is drawn to, after taking part in the inaugural Creating Community project. The Arts Council of Kern project, developed by Nicole Saint-John, aims to bring awareness to social topics, such as water rights, literacy and substance abuse, through art.
"When we had the shows, people that came we would talk to them about the painting. I feel the people were learning instead of just looking at a painting. We got some discussions going. It's really what made the work worthwhile. That's why I wanted to continue with it."
In support of those reflected in the show, 20 percent of opening night sales will benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Kern County's Front Line effort. Front Line offers outreach to local veterans and their families in various areas, including housing, health services, and educational training as well as hosting weekly support groups.
Guests can also show support for our armed forces at a postcard-writing station at the gallery. Messages will be collected and sent to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"I'm really excited that we can do something positive with the show," McKee said"