Contemporary realist painter and Vietnam Veteran John Melillo will present the exhibit “Life Goes On Part 3.” A reception will be held Friday, November 10, from noon to 4 PM, at Southampton Cultural Center. The exhibit will be on view through November 26.
We spoke to Melillo to learn more.
Tell us about your background as a Veteran.
I was a MP (Military Police Officer) in Vietnam 1971-1972 in Long Binh. My job was Front Line Supervision of 26 MPs that worked 12-hour shifts working six weeks days then six weeks nights. I had 12 people on patrol, two dog units, and 12 on gates. I had to supervise any situation civil or combat in Long Binh, which was the largest military installation in Vietnam involving over 40,000 GIs and 60,000 Vietnamese. Our mission was to save lives.
How has art helped you with PTSD?
Art saved me! I never painted before retiring, when My PTSD trauma became overwhelming. Art is my third act, a gift from God I didn’t know I had. Today I am an oil contemporary realist painter/ disabled Vietnam Veteran who uses painting as a solace and healing mechanism. Much of my art is inspired by my Tom Sawyer adventures growing up in historic Southampton, Water Mill and Sagaponack where my heritage goes back to the 1890s. Getting to the know the East End circa 1950 has served as a great original wellspring for my inspiration and paintings today.
Tell us about your upcoming show at the Southampton Cultural Center and how it’s all about “Comradery, Friendship, Courage and Honor.”
I paint two topics. My East End series and Life Goes On Vietnam series. This Year, “Life Goes on Part 3” is about comradery, friendship, courage, and honor. It’s about a heroic canine named King who saved lives in Vietnam. From the first time we saw each other we became kindred spirits. I paint from my original photos I took while on tour in Vietnam 1971 to 72. I try to paint the lighter side of Vietnam. You will see the new “King” painting and flag. We start with “Proudly Hold our Flag High!” It’s all about our community coming together to celebrate this great nation and all the sacrifices it took to make it. In addition, a short video series will be shown that reflect on the paintings I did and the history. Plus, my “East End Perspective” of additional oil paintings will be on view.
If you haven’t seen the first “Life Goes On” two parts, they will be on view as well at SCC.
What do you hope visitors take away from the experience of the show?
I look forward to sharing my art journey with everyone in hopes it spreads our global message of inspiration. “We all have our Vietnam’s” — a death in the family, accident, illness, bad relationship, something that stays with us that effects our lives. It’s something you don’t heal from, you have to learn how to live with. How we deal with it tends to define us. Our theory has been, do something that has self-worth for yourself and in doing so you might find solace. Painting is my life saver!
To learn more, visit artfeelingsjm.com.