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Arts & Culture

America's Finest Exhibit At Center Of Veteran's Day Program At The McNay Art Museum

This weekend, the McNay Art Museum hosts  special programming for Veteran's day with free admission for veterans from 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. The programs highlight their ongoing exhibit, America's Finest, by San Antonio native, Vincent Valdez.

America's Finest is a two-sided exhibit, on one side hangs six images of vintage boxers posed with symbols of their ethnic identities under them, fighters cornered and weary; many tragic symbols themselves. The other side hangs something less abstract and far more personal, images highlighting military service.  A progression of six images depicting an honor guard, a portrait of a soldier in combat a short film entitled "Home" plays on the wall.   

It's an exhibit split in half but not disjointed, as artist Vincent valdez explained it all has to do with holding the title of America's Finest. 

"In the case of these images, I tried to depict the true cost of holding that title  and usually it's in terms of giving it all or paying the ultimate price," said Valdez.

"It doesn't sugar coat or romanticize any of the sacrifices," said Lyle Williams, curator of prints and drawings for the McNay Art Museum. 

"Obviously the military is of extreme importance here in San Antonio and we wanted to do something to recognize that and honor our service people because the exhibition is so much about the sacrifices they make," Williams said.


One centerpiece of the exhibit is a large portrait of a combat-clad soldier, who appears to be in the midst of a fire fight. A black fog hangs in the air behind him, a look of uncertainty on his face, a face that takes up much of the piece.

"I assume that most viewers who approach this piece, they'll assume this is a portrait of a young man in combat. Now, I didn't know John in combat. I didn't experience him in combat, so you know its John lost in the fog trying to make his way at home," said Valdez.

The painting entitled "John" took 2 years to complete and is of Valdez's life-long friend, a friend who ultimately took his own life.  It was this event that informed much of the exhibit, the scenes of the honor guard, the video of a flag draped casket, the painting that from afar looks like a white sky over a black sea, but get close and it reveals the names of over 5,000 soldiers who've committed suicide since returning from combat, John's name prominently at the center of the first line.

When asked what he hoped veteran's took from the exhibit, Valdez tried several times to express what he hoped, but ultimately was unable to find the words. Valdez will be on hand Sunday afternoon to speak about his work and screenings of "Excerpts For John," a documentary about the painting of his portrait will be screened on the hour.