By Times Staff
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — When Thi Lin Wernau, a Rockport artist by way of Chicago and New York, decided to launch a photography and art project to raise awareness and money to help wounded veterans, one of the veterans she chose as a subject was an 84-year-old Gloucester veteran of the Korean War.
Monday night, they will be among the participants in a special benefit presentation showcasing the project and the people who have been part of it at Gloucester’s Latitude 43 restaurant and its connecting Minglewood Tavern.
The art project and Monday night’s event have been put together by Wernau, whose father is an American Vietnam veteran who met her mother while serving in the war, then returned and married in Chicago, where Thi Lin was born.
“About a year ago,” Wernau said, “I made a conscious choice to leave my high-powered career to pursue my truth and my passion in the art of photography. And I started to shoot a fine art project called ‘You. Are. Beautiful.’
“I was inspired by the universal truth of love and wanted to celebrate the human spirit and beauty in all people,” she said. “With my project, I especially honor veterans because I believe what they do is one of the ultimate tests of the human mind, body and spirit.
With that, the “You. Are. Beautiful. - Tribute to Warriors” exhibition is a selection of art from five veterans Wernau has photographed over the past year, and the exhibit is on display in the walkway outside Latitude 43 off Rogers Street.
One of those five veterans, meanwhile, is Gloucester’s own Austin Dorr, a decorated veterans of the Korean War. And Door will be part of the exhibit’s Monday night benefit presentation, which is set to run from 6:30 to 9:30 at the Lat 43 site.
Dorr was the oldest veteran involved in the project, while the youngest was U.S. Marine Cpl. Evan Reichenthal, who is just 21, is now a student at Worcester’s Assumption College and is also expected to be on hand Monday.
“Evan was an infantryman and was on foot patrol on Jan. 5, 2011, when he stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED),” Wernau relates.
The explosion severed his right leg, damaged his left calf, destroyed his right elbow and sent shrapnel throughout most of his body.
Reichenthal underwent 26 surgeries following his injury. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his service.
“(But) his will to adapt and overcome continues to make him a warrior,” Wernau said. “As he says, ‘My body may break but my mind cannot.’”
Tickets for the Monday night presentation, which will include talks with the artist and featured veterans, music, complimentary appetizers and an arts raffle, are priced at $20, and all of the proceeds, Wernau said, will go to the Semper Fi Fund, a national organization that provides aid to ex-Marines, and other projects that aid and help to empower wounded veterans.
Wernau has also published a book related to the arts project, and it is currently available at Lula’s Pantry in Rockport, Willow Rest in Gloucester or on her website at: http://ThiLinh.pixpasites.com.
All net proceeds from the book will also go to charities that empower wounded vets and at-risk youth, Wernau said.