To Amy R. Nation’s delight, a “timeless moment” with her son at the Georgia National Cemetery has transformed into an award-winning work of art, courtesy of painter Jodeen Blazer Brown. The Cartersville artist’s “Freedom Achieved” watercolor captured first in painting for National Society Daughters of the American Revolution’s American Heritage Contest.
“I was very pleased and surprised at my win in the 2018-2019 DAR American Heritage [Contest],” Brown said. “… I have no way of knowing how many ‘daughters’ submitted their art for this competition.
“… There are 110 chapters here in Georgia, and 3,000 chapters and about 180,000 members worldwide. I always hope when others see my art that they will see something that will evoke a memory or a feeling from my painting. I hope they see more than paint and paper.”
Brown drew inspiration for her contest entry from a trip to a country church cemetery with her granddaughter, and wanted to create a piece similar in tone. Upon viewing a moving moment Nation captured with her iPhone, the self-taught artist reached out to her fellow Etowah Chapter NSDAR member for permission to use the image as a reference.
“After learning the art show theme, ‘Honoring our Patriots While Preserving our Family Stories,’ I contemplated how and what to paint for this subject,” Brown said. “When I see the word ‘patriot,’ I think of my own military family — past and present. Immediately I thought of a visit I took with my young granddaughter.
“We carried flowers to decorate graves. I told her about one of our patriots and she hugged his grave. But alas I only have a memory and no photo for reference. A few days later, I remembered a friend had posted a photo taken in the National Cemetery. The photo was of her son placing a handful of snow on his uncle’s headstone after he had placed a wreath on his grave.”
Nation photographed the image at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton in December 2017, when her son was 8. Donning camouflage attire, Simon is visiting the gravesite of his great-uncle SPC Troy Hugh Sumner, a U.S. Army Korean War veteran.
“When I learned ‘Freedom Achieved’ won first place on the national level, I was elated and grateful beyond measure,” said Nation, DAR’s Georgia state historian and chapter vice regent. “This painting tells my family’s story. I am a military Gold Star Family Member, which means you are the next of kin to someone killed in the line of duty. Our holidays are spent in the cemetery remembering the life and legacies of all our family members who put on the uniform to serve God and country.
“At Christmastime, we have a tradition of participating in the Wreaths Across America program to honor and remember our loved ones and the lives of other courageous service members who have gone before us. Jodeen painted a poignant heartfelt family memory and moment of my young son, Simon, placing a military memorial wreath on a family member’s grave.”
As Simon performed this observance, he voiced several heartfelt questions to his mother about the cost of freedom.
“After reverently placing the wreath and saying, ‘Troy Hugh Sumner,’ he stood back up gazing up at the clear blue sky then looked back at me stating, ‘He’s free in heaven now isn’t he Mommy?’” said Nation, a Cartersville resident. “… ‘Freedom isn’t free is it Mommy?’ I silently nodded my head in affirmation with a tear in my eye. Even in the quiet stillness of the snow-covered landscape Simon’s words and the epiphany he was having echoed strong.
“I loving responded to him, ‘Yes you’re right, freedom requires great responsibility, great courage, great love and faith in God among other things.’ I never will forget Simon reaching down to grab a little handful of snow, placing it on top the grave as if he were making a pact between heaven and earth. He stood back and in a determined tone said, ‘I am going to be courageous and live a good life too. I love you Mommy and I love our family and I love our country, I never will forget the freedom achieved.’ … That timeless moment captured the heart and spirit of the contest.”
Painting from an 8-inch-by-10-inch photograph reference, Brown completed the piece in a couple weeks. Feeling the title was “appropriate for this painting,” she accepted the Nation family’s suggestion of the last two words of Simon’s cemetery conversation.
“I was in awe of the painting when she first revealed in its full glory,” said Nation, who purchased “Freedom Achieved.” “The beauty and attention to detail is powerful.
“She beautifully illustrated the unwavering patriotic love, like so many other military families, which passes from one generation to the next. To me, this treasured God moment reflects the sentiment ‘love never dies, only changes form.’”
In viewing the 22-inch-by-30-inch painting, Nation shared there are numerous “life lessons” one could obtain.
“I hope this painting helps to reaffirm faith in God and the blessing of eternal life that we have in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,” she said. “I hope others will always appreciate this love and never forget the sacrifices made for their freedom. I pray we never forget and forever honor those who put on the uniform to serve God and country.
“My hope is others will believe in something greater than themselves and also be willing to take on the responsibilities of freedom, come what may. I hope we will always be mindful of just how precious and sacred life is, and we find new ways each day to live a good and courageous life so future generations are inspired to do the same.”
For winning first in the painting category, Brown’s “Freedom Achieved” will be displayed at NSDAR’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., during the 128th Continental Congress June 26 to 30.
Congratulating Brown on her achievement, Bartow County Commissioner Steve Taylor and Cartersville Mayor Matt Santini recognized the 74-year-old artist for “her remarkable talent” in a joint proclamation April 9.
“I’ve known Jodeen for a number of years, especially since I’ve become commissioner. She has done numerous paintings of scenes throughout Bartow County, a lot of historic homes and some of our beautiful scenery,” Taylor said, adding Brown’s paintings are displayed at the Frank Moore Administration and Judicial Center and other county-owned buildings. “She’s just a very talented local artist.
“… She’s got a great imagination. She can look at a picture and make it come alive.”