Local exhibit shows works of fine artists in combat zones

    Ever since World War I, the United States Army has had fine artists in combat zones along with soldiers. Often the artists themselves were soldiers.

    Ever since World War I, the United States Army has had fine artists in combat zones along with soldiers. Often the artists themselves were soldiers.

    This fall, the National Constitution Center will exhibit paintings from those soldier artists. Most of the works have never been seen outside the hallways of the Pentagon.

    The Army has legions of cameramen to capture images of war with photography; it also has had a small number of painters to express war on canvas. But you won’t see Picasso’s Guernica here – the assistant chief at the Army’s Center for Military History, Rob Dellasandro, says Congress has ordered that paintings of war cannot be abstract.

    Dellasandro:
    What the Army wants is a record. That’s hard if it’s so abstract, you can’t know what’s going on. It didn’t fit in the mission statements. That’s how they got funding from Congress – they can’t do abstracts.

    Dellsandro says some of the 16,000 paintings commissioned by the Army do not shy from the horrors of war and could be even considered anti-war.

    Right now there is one soldier-artist in the whole of the Army – Master Sergeant Martin Cervantes. One of his paintings is the view from the back of a Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan.

    Cervantes:
    To get from A to B in the Afghanistan theater, is through a Chinook Helicopter, a Blackhawk. Everybody says, I’ve done that; I know how that feels. You should feel it in December, it’s freezing up there.

    Cervantes says he is able to express more about combat on canvas than photographers are able to capture. About 300 paintings will be on display at the National Constitution Center in September.

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