Featured last September in Asheville Made and now represented by Trackside Studios in the River Arts District, Deborah Anderson is an assemblage artist whose quirky, often politically inspired sculptural works are sometimes humorous, sometimes dark, and always inventive. But it’s her emotional photo collage of the hands of combat veterans at the Charles George VA Medical Center — where Anderson, a nurse (BSN), has worked for decades — that has taken on a life of its own. Freedom’s Price is Paid, installed on Veteran’s Day in 2015, hangs in the lobby of the hospital’s Community Living Center, so it can be seen by the families and visitors of those honored in the piece.
“I created it as a way I could honor and pay my respects to the veterans I cared for in the Community Living Center,” Anderson relays. “I’ve been with the VA nearly 30 years and I’m also a veteran. I’ve spent the bulk of my VA time [working] in long-term care. I currently work on the Valor Hospice unit, which is in the same building as the Community Living Center, so I still get to see and visit with the surviving veterans of Freedom’s Price Is Paid.”
Each hands photo, she says, is an 8” x 10” metal print. The images are attached to a large American-flag photo printed on wood. “All of the veterans chose how they wanted to pose their hands, what they wanted to hold, and how they wanted to place them,” she explains. “This was definitely a collaboration between them and me, which makes it so much more special. They all helped me bring it together, for which I will always be grateful.”
Every time she’s at work, Anderson passes by the piece and is “reminded of the veterans I’ve cared for over the years. Sometimes I get a little tearful … fondly remembering interactions with them and their families.”
Recently, Steve Baker of the Morganton Elks, a group that sponsors activities at the VA Center, featured “Freedom’s Price is Paid” in his newsletter and in a post on social media, noting that he has been able to recognize in the piece many veterans he knows, just by their hands. “Of the 22 veterans depicted,” he reports, “16 have passed away, and 6 remain in the Community Living Center. Anyone who visits the CLC needs to make a special effort to see this.”
For more information about the artist, see ahdraart.com.