A Cape Coral artist hopes to honor the sacrifices of the country's fallen heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan by donating to their families their pick of any one of the six pieces in his "Freedom Series" collection.
Rick Kelley kicked off the "Families of Our Fallen" project about two months ago, but he concocted the idea several years ago. The goal is to provide the families of fallen military nationwide with a signed, framed print from his collection that will include a nameplate and dedication for their lost loved one.
The "Freedom Series" is a patriotic collection that consists of "On Freedom's Wing," "Liberty's Flight," "Reflections of Freedom," "The Patriot," "Coming Home" and "The Homecoming."
“The Homecoming,” one of six pieces in the “Freedom Series” by Cape Coral artist Rick Kelley.
The collection was inspired by the events of 9/11.
Kelley noted that many people do not fully understand the cost of freedom.
"They don't realize unless it personally touches them - the sacrifices that are made for that freedom," he said. "The point of this whole project is to try to make people understand that unconditional love."
When Kelley first came up with the idea for "Families of Our Fallen," there were about 3,800 families that had lost soldiers in the wars. He estimated that there are now roughly 6,400 families nationally.
"Every family who has lost a soldier in Afghanistan or Iraq will be receiving from the people of this country, because that's really where it's coming from, their choice of one of those six images," he said.
Kelley called it "a gift, a thank you" to the families.
"I do feel like I have to give back something of myself," he said. "I'm spreading that message of unconditional love."
While Kelley is donating the prints for "Families of Our Fallen," he is asking for donations from the public to help cover the costs of framing and shipping. It could cost roughly $60 to $70 per print.
"The framing is the most expensive part of any piece of artwork," Kelley said, noting that framing is usually three to four times the cost of the piece.
"Ultimately, we're going to seek a full sponsorship for shipping," he added.
Because glass can break during shipping, each print is instead covered by a clear gel coating.
"It looks like an original," Kelley said of the final result.
As of Tuesday, an estimated 27 to 30 families had signed up to receive a piece.
To request a print, fill out the form online at: www.kelleyfineart.com.
The first piece created in the "Freedom Series" was "On Freedom's Wing." In the painting, the American flag is camouflaged in the body of a mountain, while two bald eagles fly through the sky.
On the six-month anniversary of 9/11, Kelley released "Liberty's Flight." The piece is similar to the first one, except the Statue of Liberty is now camouflaged in the body of the mountain. On the one-year anniversary of 9/11, Kelley presented the third piece in the series, titled "Reflections of Freedom."
The painting has a "sunburst with two rays of light coming down from the heavens," he said.
Kelley created "The Patriot" after the United States was fighting overseas. The piece depicts an bald eagle with the American flag camouflaged into one of its open extended wings.
"It was the individual effort of the soldier fighting the storm," he said.
The fifth painting, "Coming Home," pulls together previous elements to tell the tale of the returning soldiers - the American flag, the bald eagle and the United States camouflaged in the mountain.
However, the most requested so far as part of "Families of Our Fallen" is the final piece.
"The Homecoming" shows a soldier returning home. Several elements are present like hidden words playing off one of John F. Kennedy's famous speeches, a yellow ribbon, ghosts and kinship, along with camouflaged F-16 fighters, the flag being raised in various historical instances and even world peace.
"'The Homecoming' was probably the most difficult and most unique out of all of them," Kelley said.
"It had to represent unconditional love and going beyond the call of duty," he said.
For more information on the "Freedom Series," "Families of Our Fallen" or to donate to the project, visit: www.kelleyfineart.com or call (800) 949-4945. Kelley Fine Art is at 2819 S.E. 22nd Place.