Peter Buotte, “US Combat Vet with PTS”

Our friend Peter J Buotte is a combat veteran with an MFA from MECA. He is using his art background in treating combat trauma at Ft. Hood, Texas.

“Invisible Wounds”, an ongoing series of digitally rendered sculptures and photographs, was featured in solo shows in the Texas State Capitol, Austin in 2019; and at the Central Texas College art gallery, Sep-Nov 2021.

Over decades, my identity has expanded to include artist, art teacher, and now art therapist.  Making art is still the core activity whether for students, patients, or for myself.  With that comes heightened experience, awareness, and involvement.

Coming from a violent, alcoholic upbringing in central Maine, my obsessive art-making during childhood and teen-age years was a safe, healthy escape. It was partially compelled by exposure to my father’s combat trauma-related behaviors from Vietnam and his own self-medication. As a psychological coping skill, it is called reaction formation, doing the opposite of the hand one was dealt. In some way, these creative impulses prepared me for processing my own combat experiences in Iraq in 2004 and 2008, and my current role as an art therapist to help active duty service members.

On a daily basis, I get to be present with service members who still carry the invisible wounds and moral injury of combat trauma. I use creative art approaches to therapeutically reveal suppressed emotions and unspoken issues. The art does not lie!   In individual and group sessions during the past five years, I have led the creative process and witnessed the insight that it provides. It’s a private type of activism, not on public display.  The intent is to affect internal change one session at a time.

As art therapy sessions go deeper, we get into very raw imagery that has been burned into a patient’s long-term memory. The images made in session are honest and yearn for clarity and emotional regulation.  The patient and I get to intensely observe the emotions coming up, with the goal of arriving at clarity and reconciliation

My current sculpture practice amplifies themes that often appear in art therapy sessions. “Invisible Wounds” attempts to make visible the experiences of traumatic brain injury and/or post-traumatic stress.  In another act of courage, service members have selected a gesture and posed as a sculpture. It embraces Veterans of all branches, ranks, gender, and heritages. Most importantly, service members posed voluntarily and were never in my therapeutic line.

The current visual culture makes all art imagery present and in-the-moment for today’s viewer, from cave paintings to digital NFTs.   Massive amounts of images can be accessed rapidly.  Certain imagery can resonate collectively and go viral.  The challenge for current makers is “What will resonate for hundreds of years, rather than just 15 minutes?”

Peter J Buotte was born and raised in Maine.  He is an active Artist and Art Therapist and retired Combat Veteran.   Peter completed over 25 years in the US Army with 8 overseas tours, five in combat zones.  He received a BFA at the School of Visual Arts, New York City; an MFA at the Maine College of Art Portland; and was twice on scholarship at the Ecole de Beaux Arts in Paris in the Christian Boltanski atelier.  Since December 2016, he is national board-certified art therapist working at the Intrepid Spirit Traumatic Brain Injury Center at Fort Hood, Texas.  He provides a safe, therapeutic environment for Active-Duty service members to creatively explore post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury.

Written by:  

Categories:   Announcement