In the back room of the pop-up gallery, James Mellick has the Wounded Warrior Dog installation. Three pieces, The Way Back (right), Afghanistan (middle), and Flashback (left), are shown in the photo above.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Kristi Fish)
A local artist is hosting a pop-up gallery that opened July 1 in Marysville.
James Mellick is the mastermind behind the Wounded Warrior Dog installation that’s currently on display at 108 N. Main St.
“Wounded Warrior Dogs is an installation of carved dogs,” he said. “The initial purpose was to draw attention to the needs of veterans that have come back with nasty injuries.”
His project has gained recognition and awards since he started it in 2015. However, Mellick is no stranger to the craft, he has been carving and working in this medium since 1976 and has been creating dog statues since 1985.
Mellick has also started a new series — a reality series called “War Stories” — that focuses on specific animals and their handlers, unlike the Wounded Warrior Dogs, which are more symbolic.
Visitors can expect to see 11 or 12 pieces on display in the two-room gallery. In the front room are older statues and a never-before-seen piece from the new series.
“The front is a conversation area,” Mellick said. “There will be a TV with a loop of videos related to the display. There will be other dogs and context for the art.”
In the back room is the main display, the eight Wounded Warrior Dogs. The display originally had seven pieces, but a new one was added in 2017 to represent veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The statues are representative of different kinds of injuries and fates that some veterans have suffered. Included on the dogs are braces, brain injuries, prosthetics, and more.
Mellick has highlighted the different injuries not only on the placard, but also by using lights to shine directly on the injuries of each dog. Each dog is unique — crafted from different types of wood and most have a collar depicting a certain war.
“The different wood speaks to different species,” he said. “The specific breeds are related to wars.”
On display are German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Belgian Malinois and a Chocolate Labrador. At each piece, information is provided on what breed the dog is and what war it represents.
The room has been arranged to provide enough space for strollers and wheelchairs to move around the entire display. Background music by local composer James Ward can be heard in the room as well. Tissues are placed throughout the room as Mellick has learned over the years that they are a necessity for this installation.
“The good thing about emotion is the healing,” Mellick said. “It lets out the poison. I’ve heard from some veterans and families they haven’t had this experience since the wall (in D.C.).”
For Mellick, the experience of watching visitors see his work has helped him understand the importance. As he was too close to the behind-the-scenes he was unable to understand at first the magnitude of emotions that many might feel when they see these statues, he said.
In fact, so many enjoyed his work at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that he won the $200,000 Grand Prize by the vote of the people.
“It was all by public vote,” Mellick said. “It meant so much more than with jurors, it’s very affirming.”
Mellick has been able to see thousands of reactions to his work as it has been shown in countless cities, even setting attendance records at events, which he contributes to people’s patriotism and gratitude for the soldiers and their working animals.
“The military working dog is a big part of our culture and the timing was really great,” he said.
By bringing the event to downtown he hopes to help out local businesses by increasing the number of visitors to the area. The pieces will be shown in Marysville for at least two months, depending on demand.
“The reason I’m doing it here in Marysville is it’s my local area,” Mellick said. “My local friends, older friends couldn’t get away to my other events.”
After the short stint in Marysville, the art will be moved to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in 2019. Once there, visitors from around the country will be able to enjoy the handcrafted pieces with a specific attention to detail.
Area residents can see the carvings now at 108 N. Main St.
There is no price for admittance and donations are accepted at the door, but they are not required. The donations support the traveling and upkeep of the show and determine how long the gallery can stay open. Mellick has it slated for two months right now, but will revisit the issue based on funds and interest. Mellick has paid for the first month of the gallery out-of-pocket.
The gallery will be open the first week, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Friday.
“This way people that have to work can come over after dinner or have dinner up town after visiting,” he said.
Next week the gallery will be closed Monday, July 9, through Wednesday, July 11, but will open by appointment. Mellick has heard from people coming from out of town and wants to accommodate those who wish to see the exhibit.
The level of interest in the event will determine the schedule for the weeks following.
Children are welcome as long as they accompanied by an adult. No food or drinks are allowed in the building. Additionally, Mellick allows photographs of the art and with the art, but selfies are not permitted.
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