DENVER — The prolific artwork of a young veteran who was killed in a car crash just before Christmas is being featured during the First Friday Art Walk on Santa Fe.
Kelsey Komarek, 27, of Denver, was traveling home to visit family on Dec. 22, when his car swerved off the highway in Henry, Nebraska and crashed into a building.
"Kelsey was one of us," said Dean Glorso. "He was a veteran and an artist."
Glorso, a Vietnam veteran and an artist himself, said he got to know Komarek when the young vet started hanging around VFW Post 1.
"All the artists just loved him," Glorso said.
He said they've all been left shaken by Komarek's untimely death.
"He was 27 years old and wasn't supposed to die that young," he said.
Afghanistan tour of duty
Glorso told Denver7 that Komarek served in Afghanistan.
"He told me he was gassed (there), and a lot of his art had that theme to it," Glorso said, while pointing to a large painting of a war horse wearing a gas mask.
"This painting just tells so much," he said. "There's a windmill burning here. I really like that one."
"He was always lively," said Will Coukoulis, another veteran and artist. "He was a free spirit and he just expressed how he wanted to express things."
Coukoulis, Glorso and other vets are honoring their friend with painted portraits.
Coukoulis is projecting a photograph of the young veteran on the wall and is using it as the model for his portrait.
Glorso finished his portrait of Komarek four days after the crash.
"I was having trouble with the background," he said, pointing to the unique waves he settled on. "These were an afterthought. I put them to look like doughboy helmets like the WW1 doughboys are in the background marching."
The Vietnam vet says he hopes visitors who stop by the VFW Hall can "feel" Komarek's artwork, "and understand more about what veterans go through, after they come back from Afghanistan, or wherever."
Artwork as therapy
Glorso said his friend used art as therapy and that he does too.
"I've been back from Vietnam for 50 years," he said, "and it's still hard. I think as I get older, it gets harder."
Glorso added that VFW Post 1 has provided a place "where we can feel comfortable with each other, where we can do our art and feel good about ourselves."
The Art District on Santa Fe hosts "First Friday" on the first Friday of every month, rain or shine. VFW Post 1 is part of the event, which runs from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. It is located at 841 Santa Fe.