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Exhibit features portraits of fallen service members

May 27, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
A special art exhibit will be on limited public display at the University of Southern California Hillel Art Gallery beginning in June. It's a moving tribute to Californians who have fallen in the line of duty serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than 150 faces: young, brave, diverse. All called California home. All were killed while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. And now all of them are immortalized in the Portraits of the Fallen Memorial.

"We needed to ensure that when a family member or a loved one gazed upon the portrait for the first time, they not only saw their loved one, they felt them," said Sherry Moore, director and founder of the memorial.

Moore, an Army veteran, came up with the project as a way to recognize and give back to her fellow service members, matching the fallen with more than 100 artists.

"It is so moving, and the artists commit so much, they feel so much," said Moore. "I've had to drive down to San Diego and take it out of the artists' hands, because they feel such a connection."

Preeminent muralist Kent Twitchell felt that connection with 21-year-old Army Specialist Justin Pollard, killed in Iraq in 2005.

"You get so wrapped up in the person, you're going to be crying all over your acrylic paints as you paint, so at some point you put off, because I have a son and daughter in their 20s, and the worst thing I could imagine ever to happen to me in my life is that I would lose one of them before I go," said Twitchell.

It's a pain and loss one mother knows all too well. Her son, Matthew Ferrara, is among the sea of faces on the wall. He was killed in Afghanistan before he turned 25, but his memory lives on here.

"Anytime when you see a portrait that's been painted of your son and he's no longer alive, it's a moving and also a very soul-wrenching experience," said Linda Ferrara, Matthew's mother. "It means way more than a name on a wall when you see all of their faces."

Moore hopes the tribute will grow to represent the more than 700 Californian service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"These are our volunteers, so let's honor them, and let's have a memorial so that you can get to know who they are," said Sherry Moore.

There will be a few events open to the public at USC Hillel Art Gallery at 3300 S. Hoover Street, Los Angeles, including on June 2 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; July 11 from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.; and July 13 from noon to 6 p.m. Attendees are asked to RSVP ahead of time. For more information, go to portraitsofthefallenmemorial.org.

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