Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Steve Mumford is braver than you

A few months ago, I found this painting and this painting in a magazine. The artist who painted these is Steve Mumford. I'd never heard of Steve Mumford, and I still don't know much about him. In fact, I didn't remember his name, and it took me at least 15 minutes to find him on Google. But his work stuck with me, not necessarily as a result of the work itself (although I like the work and think it's well done and powerful), but because of the story behind the work.

Mumford is an artist who has spent several months embedded in Iraq with U.S. troops. He's an embedded artist, which is a lot like an embedded journalist, except instead of taking photos, writing about, or broadcasting the war, Mumford draws and paints it.

Evidently, there's a long tradition of artists who've done this sort of thing.  But I haven't really seen anything like Mumford's work come out of the Iraq war, and it struck me as such a wonderful and peculiar form of journalism. After all, we have photography. It's cheap and instantaneous and (somewhat) objective. If you want to capture a moment as it really was, you snap a picture. But there's something about the slow, considered deliberateness of using pencil and ink and paint to record these moments in war-torn time that really affects me, both as an artist and as a citizen of a country that has been pointlessly and continuously at war for nearly a decade.

I guess Mumford has collected his war art in a new book. I'm going to read it. I'll let you know how it is.

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