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Barbara Balzer

As a teenager living with her family at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, Barbara Balzer watched soldiers barely older than herself arrive at the base hospital from Vietnam. Many had traumatic injuries: some were missing limbs; others had lost their eyesight or were maimed by burns. “I didn’t appreciate what I had seen until I was much older,” Balzer says. The memories of those young, injured soldiers returned with news coverage of the Iraq War. The images “reminded me of the tender age and earnestness of the earlier boys,” she says. Balzer worries about the men and women who have been injured or have lost limbs at war, and fears that “these people who see more clearly than most, who are more healthy than most, are more altruistic than most, will become invisible at best, or marginalized and condescended to when they have experienced such loss.”

Smile on a Stick

23 x 12 x 10 in.

Mixed Media

Balzer, who holds a master’s in fine arts from Florida State University in Tallahassee, created “Smile on a Stick” shortly after her 27-year-old son, Cullen, joined the Marines and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Although he has never been happier, she struggles with fears for his safety. Like Balzer, the female ceramic bust projects a smile, but is preoccupied with worry.



8 x 24 x 24 in.


Balzer offers this oversized hand, created using hollow-form sculpted clay, as a symbolic comfort to men and women on any side of any war who have been injured either physically or emotionally. “Since I can’t reach them and certainly can’t exhibit their bravery, the most I can do as an artist is sculpt a hand to symbolically comfort them,” Balzer says.