GozGRAFTON - Goz, an artist based in Missouri, will be the first to tell you that art saved his life.

After two tours in Iraq, Goz’s return to civilian life was marked by substance use, depression and suicidal ideation. He discovered art as a means of therapy and a way to share his experience and hope with other veterans. These days, Goz’s work is on display at the Grafton Art Gallery, and he couldn’t be more pleased with how his art has developed.

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“Those came out of a very, very dark period of my life, but they got me through that entire period,” Goz said of his art at the Grafton Art Gallery. “Now I get to actually talk about this stuff and maybe help somebody understand that it’s okay to get help.”

Goz shared that he was in a residential rehab treatment program when he discovered drawing. He found that drawing allowed him to express what he was feeling without putting it into words, which he enjoyed. Over the last few years, Goz’s work has expanded to include several drawings on display around the Greater St. Louis area.

At the Grafton Art Gallery, Goz’s art is displayed on the Honor Wall, a wall in the middle of the gallery dedicated to veterans. He noted that he was drawn to the Grafton Art Gallery because of its emphasis on veterans. As a town, Grafton has the highest percentage of veterans per capita in the state of Illinois, at 17 percent. Gallery owner Gene Smith, a former Marine, made it a point to honor veterans via the Honor Wall and a dog tag display, the only permanent part of the gallery.

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“The one thing that attracted me to this gallery, it’s veteran-owned,” Goz explained. “Being a vet, you want to be surrounded by other vets that understand you.”

And he wants his work to resonate with other veterans, too. Goz hopes his art and his story inspire hope in the veterans who view his work. He wants to help other people find the other side, just like he did.

“It gets easier but it doesn’t get easier, because you can get triggered real quick. But when you’re surrounded with good people, it makes it a lot easier, or people that understand what you’re talking about,” Goz said. “My biggest thing was, how do I deal with this stuff constructively and not ruin my life? Because I hit rock bottom, and I'm taking an ax and I’m going five feet deeper. And I got out of it. So if they feel that way, maybe this helps them two feet out of that hole.”

For more information about Goz, or to view his work, visit Art By Goz on Facebook. He encourages anyone who is able to donate to the Gary Sinise Foundation, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention or another organization that promotes mental health. For more information about the Grafton Art Gallery, read this article on RiverBender.com.

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

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