Gallery of art and thoughts

The cartoons and contemplations of a twentysomething copy editor.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Painting Iraq

Today's muse was the New York Times, which includes an article about a New York painter named Steve Mumford. Embedded with US military units in Iraq, Mumford has produced sketches and paintings about American soldiers and Iraqis. He takes Winslow Homer, who contributed Civil War depictions for Harper's Weekly, as his inspiration. Covering the war through his art has been difficult at times -- he recalls crying onto his drawing pad during a memorial service for a young soldier killed by a sniper.

Art and war have always had a relationship. Epic battles have been commemmorated in paintings and structures -- think John Trumbull's dramatization of Bunker Hill, or Napoleon's construction of the Arc de Triomphe. The Civil War gave this country a vast new tableau, fit for both the realistic sketches of Homer and the sweeping cycloramas of Paul Philippoteaux.

More recently, however, art has also been used as a means to question and criticize war. (Or maybe not so recently; Goya bastinadoed the French for their 1808 occupation of his native Spain.) There has certainly been plenty of antiwar art in blue-state bastions like Boston and New York. In the Times article, Mumford describes his changing feelings about the Iraq war: once against it, he now sympathizes with both the soldiers and the Iraqis. His work is important for two reasons: first, it provides balance to the debate in the art world about the war; and second, it gives us a look at the conflict from someone who was there.


Post a Comment

<< Home