Let’s Talk with Jim Dukes

Let’s Talk with Jim Dukes

brantin@thestate.comJuly 29, 2013 

Jim Dukes' works will be among the Tapp's Arts Center’s Art of Healing exhibit, which opens this week.


— Art as a forum for healing will be on display throughout the month of August at Tapp’s Arts Center in Columbia when it presents “The Art of Healing.”

The free exhibit will showcase artwork created through the healing process. The presentation is in collaboration with Hidden Wounds, a nonprofit that seeks to provide peace of mind and comfort for military personnel suffering combat stress injuries and other postwar challenges.

The exhibit opens Thursday at 1644 Main St. as part of First Thursdays on Main and continues through Aug. 31.

The month-long show will feature some of the works of Jim Dukes. The summer photo artist in residence from Cary, N.C., who survived a traumatic brain injury and lives with PTSD, used his photography as a creative outlet in his own healing. The works of other notable Columbia artists – including Sandra Carr, Heidi Darr-Hope, Mary How and Lyssa Harvey – also will be on display. Many of these artists also emphasize healing through art.

Dukes spoke recently about how he used art in his own healing process and shared his hopes for the upcoming exhibit.

Can you talk a little about the experiences that have brought you to this point in your life?

Dukes: “There have been 12 concussions – five severe over the past 20 years – high falls, and a close proximity to two explosions as a contractor in Iraq ... drunken stupidity and sports. I didn’t deal with it until seven years ago when I got sober. I was diagnosed with TBI, PTSD, seizures, migraines, visual and auditory processing disorder, on and on.

“To thrive again I needed to let go of what I used to be. ... I looked around to see what skills I had, tools at my disposal, and how I was going to be creative. I can’t sing, play an instrument, dance, reading is a challenge, I can’t drive, and I am broke. But I have a cellphone camera and I kind of like taking pictures, and so it began in December 2012.”

So how have you used your photography to help with your own healing?

Dukes: “I use my cellphone to take pictures of the world around me. Now that I started taking pictures, I see life through a peaceful lens. I just see unique lines, contrasting colors and shapes and oddities we may just walk by.”

How have your own experiences helped you in your working with and understanding others who have been using art as a healing tool?

Duke: “My pain and suffering is not only physical but mental and emotional. Those are universal platforms from which I can empathize with someone using art to heal, or someone who is interested in starting. Everyone’s life journey is unique and so is the healing path, and I get that.”

Are there more ideal candidates for this type therapy or do you feel it has general implications for all types of healing?

Dukes: “The artists here at Tapp’s are not art therapists. We have specially trained art therapists we can pull into the program as needed. Our artists, writers and musicians are available for structured activity programs for the military and civilian population. It has a general positive implication for all types of healing, including healing from cancer, depression or any type of traumatic experience.”

From a strictly artistic point of view, what are some of your favorite things to photograph?

Dukes: “I photograph items that call out to me. The shots choose me; it’s odd to say that out loud. I could be walking down the street or looking out a window or see a collection of items and wham, an image hits me and I have to stop everything and shoot it. I try and relate a story of my life to each piece, like an explanation of the what and why I captured that image. Like life, my work has many layers – the initial shot, a processed/modified image and a back story, which is really the soul of a piece.”

We understand you are helping Tapp’s and Hidden Wounds establish some on-going healing arts programs. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

Dukes: “Tapp’s has aligned with several end users in addition to Hidden Wounds for the ongoing Art of Healing program. Those include but are not limited to National Alliance on Mental Health, Faces and Voices of Recovery, S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services, S.C. Department of Mental Health and the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina.

“Our goal is to reach as many South Carolina residents as possible with an artistic outlet to help them heal. Hidden Wounds is serving our veterans with counseling services related to PTSD and other combat issues. Our goal is to provide a creative outlet for veterans and their families and others interested in healing from a traumatic experience or life-changing condition that fits their interests: either painting, drawing, sketching, writing or music.”

What are some of your greatest hopes for the upcoming exhibit?

Dukes: “I have many hopes for the exhibit. First, to bring awareness to the benefits of healing through art and the stories the artists have. Some talented local artists will have art in the exhibit. Second, we hope to show how survivors make the most of the new tools they have to find hope in life. I hope we have a successful fundraiser on Aug. 30 to close the show.”

Selected artwork from The Art of Healing exhibit will be included in a photo book, with the participants’ experiences, as told by area writers. The book will be released and sold at an exhibit-ending fundraiser at 7 p.m. Aug. 30. Proceeds from admissions and artwork sales will benefit Hidden Wounds and the Friends of the Tapp’s Arts Center.

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