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Artist-combat veteran Jeffrey Stenbom uses ghostly sculpture to cope with PTSD

Artist-combat veteran Jeffrey Stenbom uses ghostly sculpture to cope with PTSD
Artist-combat veteran Jeffrey Stenbom uses ghostly sculpture to cope with PTSD

Artist-combat veteran Jeffrey Stenbom’s exhibit of ghostly glass sculpture titled “Thank You” is well worth a trip to the off-the-beaten-path Carroll Gallery on the Willow Street side of the Tulane University campus.

Stenbom, who was a combat soldier during the Iraq War, said that for him, producing sculpture is key to coping with posttraumatic stress disorder.

“More than talking in a group or something or taking medication, making artwork’s been my therapy,” he said. In short, he said, “art saved my life.”

THANK YOU

  • What: Sculpture by artist-combat veteran Jeffrey Stenbom
  • Where: Carroll Gallery, Tulane University (Willow Street side).
  • When: March 6 to 13, with an artist’s lecture at 5:30 Friday (March 6) followed by a reception until 7:30. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4, Mon-Fri.
  • More information: Visit the gallery website.

On Monday (March 2) Stenbom took a break from installing his exhibit to discuss his work and to share some of his personal history. Stenbom, who grew up in Nebraska and Minnesota, said he’d studied fine art in college and hoped to embark on an art career, when his life changed.

Eight days after terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in 2001, Stenbom, who was then 23, joined the Army. He trained to be a cavalry scout, which, he explained, meant that he was supposed “to do forward reconnaissance and find the bad guys.”

The experience of being shot at for the first time was a “weird feeling,” he said, but even weirder is the fact that eventually it became the norm.

He was not prepared for the emotional toll of combat.

“The one thing they don’t teach you is the response to the things you’re going to go see and do,” he said. “They don’t teach you how to deal with that, to cope with that.”

Even before he left the service in 2005 Stenbom had been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder.

“I didn’t suffer with anything like needing to take drugs or alcohol,” he said, “that was never ever something I dealt with. It was more like anger and just getting furious and upset.”

“I was battling demons of the things I’d gone through… I was kind of lost, I didn’t known what I was going to do with the rest of my life.”

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