View Full Version : Marine exhibit, artist find home in San Clemente

01-29-08, 04:49 PM
Monday, January 28, 2008
Marine exhibit, artist find home in San Clemente
Photographs of the Iraq war were donated to the city Saturday.
Sun Post News

Rumbling motorcycle engines drowned the voices of leather-wearing bikers Saturday in a place you might not expect them – an art gallery.

Two chapters of the Vietnam Vet/Legacy Vet Motorcycle Club came to see "A Moment in Time," a photographic exhibit of the Iraq war, before it's moved to a new location. The collection of more than 40 photos is being donated to the city after hanging for a year at the Sunset Gallery, 538 N. El Camino Real.

Photographer Reynaldo Leal, an inactive Marine, took the photos during a 2006 tour of Iraq. His photos capture both Marines and Iraqis in private moments, portraying the complex stew of emotions the conflict has born.

Leal's photos still leave an impact, especially on Vietnam veterans like Charles "Double Deuce" Devalle, a biker at the Saturday event.

"They show a lot of emotion," said Devalle. "They capture things you only see in war time."

The photos generated so much interest that Leal decided to give them to the city so they could continue to be displayed. Councilman Wayne Eggleston, who attended Saturday's event, said a display space is still being sought. The Community Center and local schools are two options being explored. The exhibit may have to be broken up and displayed in several locations throughout the city, Eggleston said.

"I never expected it to go this far," Leal said. "First, I didn't expect it to go in a gallery. Then, I didn't' expect it to go three months. Now it's gone a year, and it's not the kind of exhibit you take down and everyone forgets about it. You have to put it somewhere."

Tom "Dirt" Herrington, president of the motorcycle club's Xtreme Chapter, and a local artist as well, was very moved by the exhibit.

"I'm very impressed with Rey and his work," Herrington said. "They all touch my heart and choke me up."

While in Iraq, Leal initially started taking photos for himself and his future family; hewould go out on extra patrols just to be able to have time to shoot. A company then began printing the photos as calendars and posters; Leal said Marines have stopped in saying they've seen them available at Wal-Marts in Escondido.

Leal's had a busy year, in both his professional and personal life. Since getting out of the Marines, he's started his own film company with a partner, Blood Sweat and Tears (BST) Films. They're currently doing commercial work, but Leal said they hope to do features in the distant future.

He's also gotten married, become a father and settled down in San Clemente.

The interest his exhibit has generated surprised him, he said. Gallery owner Mark Bathen said families that had lost sons or daughters in the Iraq war would frequently come in. Word of mouth supported the exhibit, spreading among active Marines and military families, Leal said. But more importantly, non-military families would come to see the photos.

"That's a really big step, to expose people to that," he said. "It's just appreciation that somebody in this area actually put something up with real depth. It's not your run-of-the-mill art you might see."

Inspired to tackle subjects of substance through his work, Leal's next series will be on border towns. As a Latino and second-generation immigrant who grew up in south Texas, he has an interest in depicting the blend of cultures percolating in border towns. Herrington, of the motorcycle club, will be doing paintings for the exhibit. They expect it to debut sometime this spring.

Contact the writer: 949-492-5128 or agood@ocregister.com