Dennis Laughlin (left) with Mary Culbertson, Recreation Therapist, from the Black Hills Health Care System in Hot Springs, South Dakota who presented him a medal and certificate for his art entry into the National Veterans Art Show.

Alliance Veteran Dennis Laughlin’s mixed media piece “Chief Red Cloud Tribute” has received two awards in a recent art competition, including silver in the National Veteran’s Creative Arts Festival and gold in the local BHHCS VA-Hot Springs competition, which is also parts of the National Veteran’s Creative Arts Festival.

Mixed media art is artworks that use two or more applied or fine art techniques when making a single art piece.

In his entry Laughlin said, “The project was accomplished (b)y making a wooden mold and "wet-forming" the leather around the wood mold. The leather is vegetable-tanned tooling cowhide leather. The lacing is buckskin. The beads are made from buffalo bone. The horse hair is from a local Paint horse, similar to those ridden by the Lakota. The turkey feather is from a turkey I hunted several years ago. The cover flap portrait of Red Cloud was done with oil paints. The inner part of the bag is done with ink, and the white hair is accomplished by using a scalpel blade to scrape the fine lines. The "circle" is 24K gold, symbolic of "Red Cloud's War" to stop the migration across sacred territory to the gold fields in Montana. The printing is from words spoken by Red Cloud after the massacre at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. While I was stationed in Vietnam, I read the book by Dee Brown, "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee", which affected me greatly. Growing up with Native American friends in my neighborhood, I became very interested in the culture and spirituality. I saw the damage and destruction caused by alcoholism and abject poverty. As a kid, I was always amazed by the pride and fortitude of my friends, no matter the circumstance. During the summers, they would travel back and forth from the Pine ridge Reservation. "Chief Red Cloud" always stayed in my mind, as on of my friends said his family were descendants of Red Cloud. During my career as an artist and graphic designer, I spent several years in Ohio. One great opportunity was to design and fabricate interior and exterior Native American based displays for a resort on Lake Erie. I did extensive study on the Northern tribes and their influence on the culture of the Northern states and through the Midwest. I had the opportunity to track down and talk to one of the Native Americans I grew up with. I asked her about all her family and how they were doing. She said they were all dead as a result of alcoholism or murder occurring on the Pine Ridge Reservation. She said her only means of "survival" was to leave the reservation, relocating to Santa Fe, NM, and immerse herself into Native American spirituality. She is an artist, married to an artist, and doing well.”

Laughlin is the Box Butte County Veteran Service Officer.

In 2019, over 3,500 Veterans from 130 VA medical facilities entered the art, music, drama, dance, and creative writing competitions.  The National Festival is held a different city each year. In 2006, it was held in Rapid City, SD & to date it hasn’t been held in Nebraska!  It began in 1989 when it was held in St. Louis, Missouri. 2019 marked the 20th Festival where the American Legion Auxiliary co-sponsored the Festival.

In order to enter an artwork for this year, applicants need to be a veteran that is enrolled to receive medical care at VA medical facility prior to submitting an entry. Eligible Veterans can submit entries through 1 VA Facility per year and work with a VA Staff person throughout the process.

For local competitions, there are five divisions, which include art (50 categories), creative writing (13 categories), music (44 Categories), drama (21 Categories) and dance (12 Categories).  Each eligible Veteran can enter up to three categories per division.

The entry deadline for the BHHCS VA-Hot Springs competition is February 29. The competition will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. March 11.

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