Artist/Veteran Lindsay Zike: What We Can Learn from Vets Who Are Professional Artists
By Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD
Imagine being both a veteran and a fine artist?
Before I became a professional writer I had a string of blah retail jobs in a variety of dying strip malls across America.
Lindsay Zike however, held down a job prior to becoming an artist, that was something to write home about.
Zike became an a silversmith after working as an Aviation Structural Mechanic (Airframer) on SH-60 Seahawk helicopters for the United States Navy.
“Most civilians (other than artists) assume that if you’re an artist you’re a hippy type,” said Zike.
“Most civilians also mistakenly assume service members are war-loving, aggressive, even violent kinds of people.”
Veterans Aren’t All “Full Metal Jacket”
“I think these beliefs about military personnel are more informed by movies like “Full Metal Jacket” then by actual encounters with people who’ve served,” said Zike.
Zike was stationed in Japan for 3 years and spent much of her leave time there breathing in the details of Shinto shrines, appreciating guardian sculptures of lion dogs and observing the majesty of ancient temple trees.
“Civilians don’t get to see we’re not all about blood and guts and that people in the military can have unique gifts, unique personalities, and that we can be true creative artists.”
Zike suggests both veterans and civilians fight quick, easy stereotypes. For example:
“That girl in the foxhole next to you,” said Zike “might dye and weave fabric during liberty.”
“And that guy throwing an intricate porcelain vase in a ceramics studio may have been repairing a broken aircraft in the middle of an ocean this time last year.”
How Being An Artist Helped Zike as a Veteran
Being a creative allowed Zike to more easily put her service in context after she got out and faced a new, awkward reality.
“I don’t know too many vets that like to be thanked for their service, or would willingly accept any praise or hero-worship,” said Zike.
Part of military culture is downplaying any personal hardship you might experience, especially when you know others had it worse or suffered more.
“It can be a hard mentality to break afterwards,” said Zike. “Having a place to express the things you’re dealing with or indulge a passion is incredibly beneficial to vets on a personal level.”
Without some sort of outlet like the arts, Zike believes people develop baggage they carry with them throughout the rest of their lives, “slowly bleeding it out, with always more there.”
How Being a Veteran Helped Zike as an Artist
In the Navy Zike learned the value of military precision.
“Slight contamination of things like hydraulic fluid can not only damage or wear out a helicopter’s parts,” said Zike, “they can down a bird.”
Zike transferred that precision to her art practice.
“When you electroplate jewelry, if you don’t follow each step precisely you won’t get the end result you want and you won’t know why,” said Zike.
Inward Strength & Stability, Courtesy the Navy
“I’m aware that military bravado might border on toxic masculinity at times,” said Zike, “but I think my time in the military gave me a sense of stability and inward strength under pressure that other artists might also benefit from.”
Learning to Listen For The Whole Story
By interviewing Zike I got the privilege of being reminded not to make assumptions about any veteran or artist I meet.
As scientist and writer Issac Asimov instructed: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
“Just by being a veteran artist, you’re changing the way people are able to view veterans. All art is autobiographical. Take a minute to read someone else’s story.”
— Lindsay Zike
Check out Zike’s own one minute video story below.
It features a description of her work “The Laurels of Nikephoros” and it’s relation to Athena, Goddess of art and war.
I’d love to hear what you think.
Have people made assumptions about you as a writer, artist or Vet?
Would you like to ask Lindsay Zike a question yourself?
Let’s talk in comments below.
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