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Once an Artist, Always an Artist: Maj. Lindsay Cordero

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Shelby Thurman
  • Air Force Global Strike Command


Congratulations on being featured in an episode of Artisan Air and for receiving the Diversify Science Scholarship for Illustrators from the Highlights Foundation! How about we start out with you introducing yourself and what you do here at Air Force Global Strike Command.

Hi and thank you! I am Major Lindsay Cordero. I go by “Bones.” I currently work in the Commander’s Action Group as a legislative liaison officer. For my job, it is my responsibility to help author congressional testimonies and letters from the commander back to Congress.


When and why did you first decide to join the Air Force?

I have been active duty the past 10 years and prior to that, I spent four years at the Air Force Academy.

As for why I joined, my family is basically all military, with my mom being Navy and my dad being Air Force. I got accepted into West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. My mom wanted me to go Navy, dad of course wanted me to go Air Force, and my brother told me to spite them both by going Army.

I thought to myself, which branch do I think I'm going to have the most opportunity in? And for me, the answer was the Air Force. It also gave me the most space to have my creativity still exist and was actually encouraged to exist. I'm the first Air Force Academy graduate and female officer in my family.


Separating from your military identity now, what are your main focuses when creating your art?

I have three areas that I focus on, which are mental health, conservation, and children’s literacy.


Why are those three so close to your heart and mind?

The mental health piece is something I do for myself currently, and the works relating to that were recently shown in The Peace Gallery in Maine. Some of the pieces are a reflection of my time at the academy and others are a reflection of quarantine and the pandemic. The Peace Gallery was founded by Bernie DeLisle, who is a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam. He opened it to provide a forum for veteran artists to get their voices out and connect with one another. My works were made with lots of emotions, and so I think they’re right at home with Bernie.

One day, I'd love to work with art therapists in the VA and support other veterans by helping teach painting classes that go through a flow of creating and externalizing what you're struggling with internally.

As for the conservation part, I’m currently trying to do that by painting art inspired by coral reefs. I’m a scuba diver and make a lot of underwater art.

When I scuba dive and see the underwater world, to me, it feels like it's as close as I can get to heaven on this Earth. It's beauty that cannot be conveyed through words, and so I paint it. It is my hope that I am able to take the beauty of the reef and bring it up so that we can have an appreciation for this environment that quite literally gives the entire planet life. 

The last part, literacy, was mainly inspired by the challenge that so many kids face today, especially military kids and military families because you’re moving from place to place. And with those moves, the educational standards vary from state to state. We need to make sure our people have what they need—having access to literacy is the same as having access to yourself.

I hope I can give back specifically to military kids because when I was a military kid living in Saudi Arabia, I remember when Keith Baker flew from the United States to Saudi Arabia to do an author visit with all the kids on base. I distinctly remember all the fun the kids had meeting this author and reading the book and getting to see the artwork. I thought to myself, “I want to do that, too!”


A theme that I noticed is that your work seems to be rooted in love. For yourself, for others, the creatures around you, the world. It seems like you’re trying to give love and respect to them all, wouldn’t you say?

Thank you for being able to see that. My hope is that through the artwork I create, I raise awareness of the importance of the reef, and I give people a door to walk through to see why these creatures matter so much, even if you've never seen them before.

I have another children's book I’m currently working on that's based on the reef. It's all tied together. The artwork, the books, the writing, the painting; it's all interconnected within these three areas. We belong to ourselves, we belong to our communities, we belong to the environment.

This is why I say this is my highest service in my lifetime because I love being of service to my nation through the Air Force, and it is a feeling of service that comes through my heart.


You mentioned in a blog post that you had previously tried to keep a firm line between your creative and military work. Why was that? And why did you finally decide to no longer keep those two parts of yourself separate?

I think that my original intention was rooted in my time at the Academy. In my experience as a cadet, there was no room for my art, there was no room for my personality.

In the military, you're taught to think together, and that's where the identity piece comes in. I was taught that the parts of me that were creative were not valuable to the community. It was pretty painful. But the problem with that is when you minimize the parts of you to fit into a community, you aren't fitting in with yourself. I had to decide that, no, actually, I deserve to be a creative.

Once I got on active duty, it was like a slow return to myself. I slowly, quietly, returned to working on my art outside of the military, and I slowly started allowing myself to be more creative within the military. My creativity has wound its way through my career; all the places where I've done the best in my career was when I was able to use my creativity.


It seems like you’ve accomplished so many great things both in and out of the military over the years. The obvious question now is, what’s next?

I will soon be transitioning to the Air Force Reserve, where I will be working at the Secretary of the Air Force Legislative Liaison Office. I’ll be pivoting into a different legislative role where I’ll be working with the House of Representatives. My husband is a pilot and so he was able to get picked up by the 89th Airlift Wing, so in October we’ll be PCSing to Washington D.C. 

Half of my family is Puerto Rican and the other half of my family's Cajun, from Louisiana. I'm going to really miss Louisiana because I found such a good community here within the arts. And my publisher is here, so that's kind of hard too. But at the same time, you got to just go where you’re called.


Wrapping things up here now, is there anything else you would like to share or wish that I had asked you?

I'm not sure I fully got it through in my Artisan Air episode, but if there's anything I can hit home to anyone who watches or reads my work, it's that you do not have to be a starving artist.

You can choose for it to be true for yourself, but you don't have to. I've been building my creative career alongside my Air Force career from the beginning. I paused creating for a few years while I was at the Air Force Academy because it was just impossible for me at the time. But I graduated in 2013, and by 2015, I was selling commissions. So, it's been there from the beginning, just quietly existing alongside my Air Force career.

Now it's grown to such a degree that I can shift how I'm approaching my art career without giving up my Air Force career, and I think that's the key thing.

Additionally, I want other Strikers to know that this opportunity exists. If you or someone in your organization is a creative that is pursuing their practice, there will be another season of Artisan Air. And do not go through life alone. It's too hard. It's too miserable, quite frankly. I like to use the analogy: who wants to make it to the top of a mountain and not have someone to toast champagne with?

In my lifetime, however many years I'm given on the face of this Earth, my highest service in my lifetime will be through my art. If someone else out there feels the same way, then I hope that they are also able to have the same opportunities to pursue it. Everyone should have access to these opportunities.