Combat Art

Thinking this fitting of Veteran’s Day, I found two recent mentions to describe the art of war as combat art.

This mural was painted by “The detainees [near the province of Umm Qasr in Iraq] painted all of the murals in the compounds and a significant majority of the murals outside,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth King, commander of the 306th Military Police Battalion.

Sgt. Rob Bingham, “D” Company, 132nd Brigade Support Battalion, sits in front of his favorite piece at the Theatre Interment Facility at Camp Bucca [before the facility is dismantled].

detainee mural on army.mil from homepage of United States Army, on Art Is Everywhere

Detainee mural on army.mil from homepage of United States Army

Another inspiration was this article about Sgt. Kristopher Battles (no pun in his name intended but very coincidental), a Marine combat artist in the New York Times.

18maines-span-articleLarge via NY Times, as seen on Art Is Everywhere

Marine Sgt. Battles Sketches during training. Photo by Jim Wilson, NY Times

The objective of his mission is this, “We’re not here to do poster art or recruiting posters,” Sergeant Battles, 42, said. “What we are sent to do is to go to the experience, see what is really there and document it — as artists.”

This is an interesting story to show that the grim nature and essence of the feeling of war is best captured in sketches. Note too that there is multi-media going on here. As Sgt. Battles sketches the scene above, he’s being photographed by another artistic eye to capture the moment. Sketches tend to embody movement and immediacy, whereas photos stop the motion and capture that particular moment in time without often a before and after context. Sketches can show multiple scenes on one page that flow from one another and sense of place, time and light can all be artistically interpreted and enhanced. In photography, this can only be done after the fact in Photoshop perhaps. It’s just interesting to me to see the same scenario captured differently just by virtue of different artistic media as well as individual artistic portrayals.

IronSgt1 by Kristopher Battles via his Sketchpad Warrior blog, seen on Art Is Everywhere

Iron Sgt1 by Kristopher Battles via his Sketchpad Warrior blog

Iron+Sgt+Storyboard by Kristopher Battles via his Sketchpad Warrior blog, on ArtIsEverywhere

Iron+Sgt+Storyboard by Kristopher Battles via his Sketchpad Warrior blog

The article describes “The program is not the only one of its kind in the United States military, but many regard it as the one most deeply committed to its artistic mission. Like those in the other services, it began after the attack on Pearl Harbor and scaled back after Vietnam. Somewhat unusually, however, it has kept at least one artist in the reserves ready to deploy. And while most of the services have reactivated their art programs since the start of the Bush administration’s “global war on terror,” the Marine Corps’s has been the only one to cover most of the major conflicts.”

I remember when the stepfather of the wife of our good friend passed away, my husband, Peter, was asked to peruse many of his books. Peter Braestrup was a well known journalist who was a military correspondent during the Vietnam War and upon returning he founded The Wilson Quarterly. My Peter found this provocative sketchbook of war scenes done during the Vietnam War and often at the scenes of battles and imprisonment. The sketches were hauntingly real. I referred to this book when I did military sketches for The Military Order of the World Wars Officer Review Magazine back in 1999. I’m glad to see the magazine and the organization is still going strong; although my editor is no longer in charge. I enjoyed that gig because of the research and learning involved. I spent hours going through old 1960’s Time Magazines for photo references. It was my job to put illustrations to submitted stories by military war veterans. Not an easy task but I enjoy a challenge, sometimes.

All this makes me think of the incredible sacrifices that our military makes and not only them but their wives and their children and families. Veterans Day is worth keeping them in your thoughts and prayers with gratitude, good wishes and godspeed.

As we’re going to Sewanee today to see our son and experience another class’ reunion for Homecoming, I can’t help but think of The Smith’s to bridge the gap of wartime thoughts and good 80’s music to Kick Start the Weekend, definitely starting early for us. Since I cannot embed this video for How Soon is Now, one of my favorites by the Smiths, click the link. Interestingly, as I was searching for this, I ran across Radiohead’s cover of The Smith’s The Headmaster Ritual.

I also think of U2’s Sunday Bloody Sunday.