Veteran Deperlene Reid’s life so far has been bookended by passions instilled in her as a child: the love for her country and an appreciation for the arts.
“My dream was always to join the military,” said Reid, an adult learner at the University of West Georgia. “As a young child, I initially fell in love with the military uniforms that I would see girls wear in movies. I wanted to wear that same uniform. Throughout my childhood and high school, all I wanted was to join the Women’s Army Corps and wear that uniform.”
By the time Reid enlisted in the United States Army in 1981, that particular uniform and program were no longer in service, but her dedication remained the same. And no matter where she was stationed – be it Germany, Panama or Korea – she would often look into the area’s higher education opportunities.
“Because I was in the military, I was transferred to different installations,” Reid recalled. “I have enrolled in so many different colleges and universities, I could not count them all on one hand. I also changed programs just as many times as I changed schools.”
A lover of photography, Reid has always had a camera in her hands, even as a child. But with the advancements made in technology over the past several decades, taking photos became a more challenging proposition.
“I bought a camera, and it was smarter than I was,” she said with a laugh. “So, I promised myself that once I retired, I would move back to Georgia, take a class at UWG and learn how to operate this camera.”
It turned out to not be as simple as just one class. Reid met with Department of Art, History and Philosophy Chair, Kevin Shunn, who advised her to enroll for an entire semester. That eventually led her to a class with Senior Lecturer and Gallery Director for Printmaking and Foundations Stephanie Smith. It was there she discovered a new passion: screen printing.
“When Stephanie finds a student who enjoys what they are doing, she starts planting little seeds in their heads,” Reid shared. “She finally talked me into changing my major, but I kept getting frustrated. Then when we started doing relief reduction, it clicked. I fell in love with it. Like the military, you have to be very focused in reduction printing.”
Reid recently displayed her work in her senior exhibition, titled “Perpetual Garden.”
“Dee has worked tirelessly to build her skills, from initially telling me she could not draw to creating an amazing exhibition of beautiful hand-carved woodblock and linocut prints,” Smith said. “Her sense of design and gorgeous color combinations are evident in the work, and her concept and symbolism is moving.”
Reid shared that her printmaking journey has not only been a creative endeavor; it has sparked memories of working in the garden as a child with her mother – hence the theme for her show.
“Relief reduction printing is very slow and methodical, but like gardening, the results are well worth the effort,” she said. “Through my work, I am trying to memorialize my garden to share with my viewers, like my mom shared her love of flowers with me.”
Since she retired as a master sergeant in 2007, Reid saw no need to earn a degree or certificate. However, with Smith’s encouragement, Reid will graduate in December with her BFA in printmaking.
“I’m proud to have this degree that is rooted in doing something I love and for which I have a passion,” she concluded. “I will continue making prints and entering them in exhibitions because I have that knowledge and experience now.”
photography by Miranda Daniel