Name: Jenifer Chadbourne
Military Branch: United States Army (2009 - 2013)
Business Name(s): Egodram
Date Business Was Opened: I started creating this kind of work in 2014
Types of Items/performance: I paint using actual military uniforms, mostly ACUs and DCUs. Soldiers and veterans often donate them to me so I can make art with them. I also dabble in poetry from time to time, but I've never been published.
How long have you been doing this? Since 2014
How has this helped you as a veteran? I was sexually assaulted and relentlessly harassed while deployed in Iraq (2010-2011), I tried to kill myself in secret not long after this took place. You've probably heard survivors of military sexual trauma thousands of times about how such experiences "broke them," saying this of myself would only be a half-truth: I would describe the aftermath of the assault on my body and my mind as being burned to ash and then eventually returning as something else entirely. "PFC Chadbourne" as most people knew her basically died in Iraq, but what I later became still had some of the embers inside. I use the image on an M40 Pro-Mask a lot to relate this experience, anyone who's ever put one on knows how inhuman it makes you feel. Almost like an alien, but something clearly other than human and without an identity (covering the face completely): That's what rapists do, regard you as not-human and merely a means to a "goal."
Sure, I could have gone to a reporter to tell my story (and I've tried that repeatedly to no avail), OR I can show people the ongoing pain and suffering that survivors like myself re-live every single day: It's too easy to scroll past yet another rape story on Facebook, it's quite something else to try and burn an image out of your head. I consider my work a form of protest, and I don't see myself stopping for as long as I'm alive. I'll let the fire burn whatever it touches.
If you could give one piece of advice to veterans who feel completely lost since being discharged what would it be? As long as you are alive, you are not hopeless. Find something that's truly and genuinely YOURS: A sketchbook, a guitar, making a game, etc... the arts are just an alternate means of communication, find something that you can show the world your demons through and you will reach people.
Where can people find you or your items? Mostly on my Instagram, @jl_chadbourne or my WIX site (http://egodram.wixsite.com/egodram)