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Photo show focuses on female veterans

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One-night exhibit puts lens on 20 from Oregon who served

In an effort to spur dialogue and discussion around the women who serve our country, the Portland Art Museum will host a one-night, pop-up photography exhibition spotlighting 20 Oregon women veterans.

Called "I Am Not Invisible," the Feb. 24 show is a joint project between Portland State University's Veterans Resource Center and the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs and aims to highlight women veterans who feel as though their contributions often are overlooked. Photos were shot by Sally Sheldon.

The project came about when Felita Singleton, director of Portland State University's Veterans Resource Center, heard veteran students talking about issues they had. She said there was a theme among the women: They felt they didn't have a voice.

"(Women) represent our country both nationally and internationally, and are still coming back to the home country and feeling like they don't have a voice," Singleton says.

Elizabeth Estabrooks, Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs women veterans' coordinator, is working with Singleton to curate the show. She said when people hear the word "veterans," they think of men. A veteran herself, she left the military in 1980 after experiencing pervasive sexual harassment. She's still proud of the title, though, enough to have it on her license plate. But even then, she says, "people ask if it was my husband."

The two partnered to find a diverse group of women veterans from Oregon. Six of the photos in the exhibition will be Portland State students. Ages of the veterans range from 24 up to 101 and have diverse ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations.

"It was really important that we show all women who have served," Estabrooks says. "So the idea of an 'I'm Not Invisible' campaign story is to help raise awareness that women vets are out there, that we've contributed in a wide range of ways."

After leaving the Portland Art Museum, "I Am Not Invisible" will become a traveling exhibit with a showing at Portland State University. Singleton and Estabrooks both hope the exhibit will gain traction and go national.

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